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Full text of "English hours"

ENGLISH 



HOURS 




HENRY JAMES 



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ENGLISH HOURS 

BY HENRY JAMES 




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ENGLISH HOURS 

BY HENRY JAMES 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 
BY JOSEPH PENNELL 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 

MDCCCCV 



COPYRIGHT 1S7S 1S83 BY JAMES R, OSGOOD & CO. 

COPYRIGHT 1893 BY HARPER & BROTHERS 
COPYRIGHT 1905 BY' HOUGHTON MIFFLIN & CO. 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

Published October iqos 




NOTE 



THE papers gathered into this series, originally 
published in various periodicals, have already 
been reprinted — the earliest in date more than 
thirty years ago ; the others, v^ith the exception of 
two, more recently, in a volume entitled '' Portraits 
of Places." They have been here once more placed 
together, for the great advantage they will be felt 
to derive from the company and support of Mr. 
Pennell's illustrations. Each article is marked with 



VI 



NOTE 



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its date, and it is obvious that the impressions and 
observations they for the most part embody had 
sprung from an early stage of acquaintance with 
their general subject-matter. They represent a 
good many wonderments and judgments and emo- 
tions, whether felicities or mistakes, the fine fresh- 
ness of which the author has — to his misfortune, 
no doubt — sufficiently outhved. But they may 
perhaps on that very account present something of 
a curious interest. I may add that I have again 
attentively looked them over, with a view to any 
possible amendment of their form or enhancement 
of their meaning, and that I have nowhere scrupled 
to rewrite a sentence or a passage on judging it 
susceptible of a better turn. 
1905- H. J. 



PUBLISHERS' NOTE 

THE chapters on " London " and " Browning 
in Westminster Abbey" are included in this 
volume by the courteous permission of Messrs. 
Harper & Brothers, pubHshers of the volume of 
Mr. James's " Portraits of Places " in which they 
originally appeared. 

Acknowledgment is also due to Messrs. Charles 
Scribner's Sons for permission to reprint the chap- 
ter on " Winchelsea, Rye, and * Denis Duval,' " 
which first appeared in " Scribner's Magazine." 




CONTENTS 

LONDON I 

BROWNING IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY 5 1 

CHESTER 61 

LICHFIELD AND WARWICK 77 

NORTH DEVON 93 

WELLS AND SALISBURY I07 

AN ENGLISH EASTER I2l 

LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 153 



viii CONTENTS 

TWO EXCURSIONS 175 

IN WARWICKSHIRE 197 

ABBEYS AND CASTLES 225 

ENGLISH VIGNETTES 245 

AN ENGLISH NEW YEAR 269 

AN ENGLISH WATERING-PLACE 277 

WINCHELSEA, RYE AND " DENIS DUVAL " . . . 287 

OLD SUFFOLK 317 



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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

A Tower on the Walls, Chester Half-title 

Magdalen Tower, Oxford {see p. i8g) . . . Frontispiece 

The Gate-House, Cambridge Title 

The Senate House, Oxford v 

Peterhouse Quad, Cajnbridge vii 

The Medway and Rochester Keep ix 

Richmond, from the Thames i 

St. Paul's, frotn Ludgate Hill 6 

Entrance to St. James's Park, Duke of York's Column i6 

In the Green Park 22 

St. Pa2iVs,fro7n the Water 40 



X LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

The Terrace^ RicJunond 42 

North Door of the Abbey 51 

The Abbey, frofn Victoria Street 54 

Eaton Hall 61 

Chester High Street 64 

The Rows, Chester 68 

Chester Cathed7'al^ West Front 72 

Shrewsbury 76 

Haddon Hall 11 

Lichfield Cathedral 80 

The Three Spires of Lichfield 82 

Warwick Castle 88 

Lladdon Hall^frotn the Road 91 

Lyjimotith 93 

A Devonshire Lane 94 

The A^onnan Towers of Exeter 98 

Porlock Chii7xh, Exmoor 105 

The West Fro?it, Wells 107 

The Market-Place, Wells 112 

Salisbury Cathedral 116 

Stonehenge 118 

Glastojibury 120 

The Abbey and Victoria Tower, frojn St. James's 

Park 121 

Dark Mysteriojis London. Near Queen Acme's Gate, 

Westminister 126 

Ln St. James's Park 1 30 

Baker Street 134 

Canterbury , fro7n the Meadows 140 

Rochester Castle 144 

The Cathedral Close, Canterbury 148 

The Nave, Ca?iterbury 1 50 

The Great Tower, Canterbury 152 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xi 

Greenwich Observatory I53 

Piccadilly^ near Devonshire House 156 

The Ship, Greenwich 162 

Kensington Gardens 166 

Greenwich Park i73 

Epsom Heath, Derby Day I75 

The Start for the Derby 1 80 

The Finish of the Derby 184 

On the Downs, Derby Day 196 

Kenilworth 197 

Stratford-on-Avon Church 208 

Charlcote Park 214 

The Hospital, Warwick 223 

Ludlow Castle 225 

Ludlow Castle, from the Moat 234 

Stokesay Castle 240 

Ludlow Tower 243 

Ports7nouth Harbor, and " The Victojy " 245 

Shanklin 254 

Chichester Cross 260 

Abbey Gateway, Bury St. Ed?nunds 264 

Trinity Gate, Cambridge 267 

The Workhotcse 269 

A Factory Tow7i at Night 272 

A Factory Town 275 

The Parade, Hastings 277 

The Front, Brighton 280 

A Crescent, Hastings 286 

Winchelsea High Street 287 

Rye,fro?n Winchelsea Gate 290 

Rye, from the Winchelsea Road 296 

Rye, from the Marshes 300 

The Sandgate, Rye 308 



Xll 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



A Street in Rye 31 5 

FitzGeraWs House -317 

In Old Suffolk 326 

A Suffolk Co?nmon 33° 



ENGLISH HOURS 



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LONDON 



THERE is a certain evening that I count as vir- 
tually a first impression, — the end of a wet, 
black Sunday, twenty years ago, about the first of 
March. There had been an earlier vision, but it 
had turned to grey, hke faded ink, and the occasion 
I speak of was a fresh beginning. No doubt I had 
mystic prescience of how fond of the murky modern 
Babylon I was one day to become ; certain it is that 
as I look back I find every small circumstance of 
those hours of approach and arrival still as vivid as 
if the solemnity of an opening era had breathed 



2 ENGLISH HOURS 

upon it. The sense of approach was already almost 
intolerably strong at Liverpool, where, as I remem- 
ber, the perception of the English character of every- 
thing was as acute as a surprise, though it could only 
be a surprise without a shock. It was expectation 
exquisitely gratified, superabundantly confirmed. 
There was a kind of wonder indeed that England 
should be as English as, for my entertainment, she 
took the trouble to be ; but the wonder would have 
been greater, and all the pleasure absent, if the sen- 
sation had not been violent. It seems to sit there 
again like a visiting presence, as it sat opposite to 
me at breakfast at a small table in a window of the 
old coffee-room of the Adelphi Hotel — the un- 
extended (as it then was), the unimproved, the 
unblushingly local Adelphi. Liverpool is not a ro- 
mantic city, but that smoky Saturday returns to me 
as a supreme success, measured by its association 
with the kind of emotion in the hope of which, for 
the most part, we betake ourselves to far countries. 
It assumed this character at an early hour — or 
rather, indeed, twenty-four hours before — with the 
sight, as one looked across the wintry ocean, of the 
strange, dark, lonely freshness of the coast of Ire- 
land. Better still, before we could come up to the 
city, were the black steamers knocking about in the 
yellow Mersey, under a sky so low that they seemed 
to touch it with their funnels, and in the thickest, 



LONDON 3 

windiest light. Spring was already in the air, in the 
town; there was no rain, but there was still less sun 
— one wondered what had become, on this side of 
the world, of the big white splotch in the heavens; 
and the grey mildness, shading away into black at 
every pretext, appeared in itself a promise. This 
was how it hung about me, between the window 
and the fire, in the coffee-room of the hotel — late 
in the morning for breakfast, as we had been long 
disembarking. The other passengers had dispersed, 
knowingly catching trains for London (we had only 
been a handful); I had the place to myself, and 
I felt as if I had an exclusive property in the im- 
pression. I prolonged it, I sacrificed to it, and it is 
perfectly recoverable now, with the very taste of 
the national muffin, the creak of the waiter's shoes as 
he came and went (could anything be so English 
as his intensely professional back? it revealed a 
country of tradition), and the rustle of the news- 
paper I was too excited to read. 

I continued to sacrifice for the rest of the day; it 
did n't seem to me a sentient thing, as yet, to enquire 
into the means of getting away. My curiosity must 
indeed have languished, for I found myself on the 
morrow in the slowest of Sunday trains, pottering 
up to London with an interruptedness which might 
have been tedious without the conversation of an 
old gentleman who shared the carriage with me and 



4 ENGLISH HOURS 

to whom my alien as well as comparatively youth- 
ful character had betrayed itself. He instructed me 
as to the sights of London and impressed upon me 
that nothing was more worthy of my attention than 
the great cathedral of St. Paul. "Have you seen 
St. Peter's in Rome? St. Peter's is more highly 
embellished, you know; but you may depend upon 
it that St. Paul's is the better building of the two." 
The impression I began with speaking of waS; 
strictly, that of the drive from Euston, after dark, 
to Morley's Hotel in Trafalgar Square. It was not , 
lovely — it was in fact rather horrible ; but as I 
move again through dusky, tortuous miles, in the 
greasy four-wheeler to which my luggage had com- 
pelled me to commit myself, I recognise the first 
step in an initiation of which the subsequent stages 
were to abound in pleasant things. It is a kind of 
humiliation in a great city not to know where you 
are going, and Morley's Hotel was then, to my im- 
agination, only a vague ruddy spot in the general 
immensity. The immensity was the great fact, and 
that was a charm; the miles of housetops and via- 
ducts, the complication of junctions and signals 
through which the train made its way to the station 
had already given me the scale. The weather had 
turned to wet, and we went deeper and deeper into 
the Sunday night. The sheep in the fields, on the 
way from Liverpool, had shown in their demeanour 



LONDON 5 

a certain consciousness of the day; but this mo- 
mentous cab-drive was an introduction to the rigid- 
ities of custom. The low black houses were as 
inanimate as so many rows of coal-scuttles, save 
where at frequent corners, from a gin-shop, there 
was a flare of light more brutal still than the dark- 
ness. The custom of gin — that was equally rigid, 
and in this first impression the pubhc-houses counted 
for much. 

Morley's Hotel proved indeed to be a ruddy spot; 
brilliant, in my recollection, is the coffee-room fire, 
the hospitable mahogany, the sense that in the 
stupendous city this, at any rate for the hour, was 
a shelter and a point of view. My remembrance of 
the rest of the evening — I was probably very tired 
— is mainly a remembrance of a vast four-poster. 
My Kttle bedroom-candle, set in its deep basin, 
caused this monument to project a huge shadow 
and to make me think, I scarce knew why, of "The 
Ingoldsby Legends." If at a tolerably early hour 
the next day I found myself approaching St. Paul's, 
it was not wholly in obedience to the old gentleman 
in the railway- carriage: I had an errand in the City, 
and the City was doubtless prodigious. But what 
I mainly recall is the romantic consciousness of 
passing under the Temple Bar, and the way two 
lines of ''Henry Esmond" repeated themselves in 
my mind as I drew near the masterpiece of Sir 



6 ENGLISH HOURS 

Christopher Wren. "The stout, red-faced woman" 
whom Esmond had seen tearing after the stag- 
hounds over the slopes at Windsor was not a bit 
Hke the effigy "which turns its stony back upon St. 
Paul's and faces the coaches struggling up Ludgate 
Hill." As I looked at Queen Anne over the apron 
of my hansom — she struck me as very small and 
dirty, and the vehicle ascended the mild incline 
without an effort — it was a thrilling thought that the 
statue had been familiar to the hero of the incom- 
parable novel. All history appeared to live again, and 
the continuity of things to vibrate through my mind. 
To this hour, as I pass along the Strand, I take 
again the walk I took there that afternoon. I love 
the place to-day, and that was the commencement 
of my passion. It appeared to me to present pheno- 
mena, and to contain objects of every kind, of an 
inexhaustible interest ; in particular it struck me as 
desirable and even indispensable that I should pur- 
chase most of the articles in most of the shops. My 
eyes rest with a certain tenderness on the places 
where I resisted and on those where I succumbed. 
The fragrance of Mr. Rimmel's establishment is 
again in my nostrils; I see the slim young lady (I 
hear her pronunciation) who waited upon me there. 
Sacred to me to-day is the particular aroma of the 
hair-wash that I bought of her. I pause before the 
granite portico of Exeter Hall (it was unexpectedly 




ST. PAUL'S, FROM LUDGATE HILL 



LONDON 7 

narrow and wedge-like), and it evokes a cloud of 
associations which are none the less impressive 
because they are vague; coming from I don't know 
where — from " Punch," from Thackeray, from vol- 
umes of the " Illustrated London News " turned over 
in childhood; seeming connected with Mrs. Beecher 
Stowe and "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Memorable is 
a rush I made into a glover's at Charing Cross — 
the one you pass, going eastward, just before 
you turn into the station; that, however, now that 
I think of it, must have been in the morning, as 
soon as I issued from the hotel. Keen within me 
was a sense of the importance of deflowering, of 
despoihng the shop. 

A day or two later, in the afternoon, I found my- 
self staring at my fire, in a lodging of which I had 
taken possession on foreseeing that I should spend 
some weeks in London. I had just come in, and, 
having attended to the distribution of my luggage, 
sat down to consider my habitation. It was on the 
ground floor, and the fading daylight reached it in 
a sadly damaged condition. It struck me as stuffy 
and unsocial, with its mouldy smell and its decora- 
tion of lithographs and wax-flowers — an imper- 
sonal black hole in the huge general blackness. The 
uproar of Piccadilly hummed away at the end of the 
street, and the rattle of a heartless hansom passed 
close to my ears. A sudden horror of the whole 



8 ENGLISH HOURS 

place came over me, like a tiger- pounce of home- 
sickness which had been watching its moment. 
London was hideous, vicious, cruel, and above all 
overwhelming; whether or no she was "careful of 
the type," she was as indifferent as Nature herself 
to the single life. In the course of an hour I should 
have to go out to my dinner, which was not supplied 
on the premises, and that effort assumed the form 
of a desperate and dangerous quest. It appeared to 
me that I would rather remain dinnerless, would 
rather even starve, than sally forth into the infernal 
town, where the natural fate of an obscure stranger 
would be to be trampled to death in Piccadilly and 
have his carcass thrown into the Thames. I did 
not starve, however, and I eventually attached myself 
by a hundred human links to the dreadful, delight- 
ful city. That momentary vision of its smeared 
face and stony heart has remained memorable to 
me, but I am happy to say that I can easily summon 
up others. 

II 

It is, no doubt, not the taste of every one, but for 
the real London-lover the mere immensity of the 
place is a large part of its savour. A small London 
would be an abomination, as it fortunately is an 
impossibility, for the idea and the name are beyond 
everything an expression of extent and number. 



LONDON 9 

Practically, of course, one lives in a quarter, in a 
plot; but in imagination and by a constant mental 
act of reference the accommodated haunter enjoys 
the whole — and it is only of him that I deem it 
worth while to speak. He fancies himself, as they 
say, for being a particle in so unequalled an aggre- 
gation; and its immeasurable circumference, even 
though unvisited and lost in smoke, gives him the 
sense of a social, an intellectual margin. There is 
a luxury in the knowledge that he may come and 
go without being noticed, even when his comings 
and goings have no nefarious end. I don't mean by 
this that the tongue of London is not a very active 
member; the tongue of London would indeed be 
worthy of a chapter by itself. But the eyes which at 
least in some measure feed its activity are fortunately 
for the common advantage solicited at any moment 
by a thousand different objects. If the place is big, 
everything it contains is certainly not so; but this 
may at least be said — that if small questions play 
a part there, they play it without illusions about its 
importance. There are too many questions, small 
or great; and each day, as it arrives, leads its chil- 
dren, like a kind of mendicant mother, by the hand. 
Therefore perhaps the most general characteristic 
is the absence of insistence. Habits and inclinations 
flourish and fall, but intensity is never one of them. 
The spirit of the great city is not analytic, and, as 



lo ENGLISH HOURS 

they come up, subjects rarely receive at its hands 
a treatment drearily earnest or tastelessly thorough. 
There are not many — of those of which London 
disposes with the assurance begotten of its large 
experience — that would n't lend themselves to a 
tenderer manipulation elsewhere. It takes a very 
great affair, a turn of the Irish screw or a divorce 
case lasting many days, to be fully threshed out. 
The mind of Mayfair, when it aspires to show what 
it really can do, lives in the hope of a new divorce 
case, and an indulgent providence — London is 
positively in certain ways the spoiled child of the 
world — abundantly recognises this particular apti- 
tude and humours the whim. 

The compensation is that material does arise; 
that there is a great variety, if not morbid subtlety ; 
and that the whole of the procession of events and 
topics passes across your stage. For the moment 
I am speaking of the inspiration there may be in 
the sense of far frontiers; the London-lover loses 
himself in this sweUing consciousness, delights in the 
idea that the town which encloses him is after all 
only a paved country, a state by itself. This is his 
condition of mind quite as much if he be an adoptive 
as if he be a matter-of-course son. I am by no means 
sure even that he need be of Anglo-Saxon race and 
have inherited the birthright of English speech; 
though, on the other hand, I make no doubt that 



LONDON II 

these advantages minister greatly to closeness of 
allegiance. The great city spreads her dusky mantle 
over innumerable races and creeds, and I believe 
there is scarcely a known form of v^orship that has 
not some temple there (have I not attended at the 
Church of Humanity, in Lamb's Conduit, in com- 
pany with an American lady, a vague old gentle- 
man, and several seamstresses ?) or any communion 
of men that has not some club or guild. London is 
indeed an epitome of the round world, and just as 
it is a commonplace to say that there is nothing 
one can't ''get" there, so it is equally true that there 
is nothing one may not study at first hand. 

One doesn't test these truths every day, but 
they form part of the air one breathes (and wel- 
come, says the London-hater, — for there be such 
perverse reasoners, — to the pestilent compound). 
They colour the thick, dim distances which in my 
opinion are the most romantic town-vistas in the 
world ; they mingle with the troubled light to which 
the straight, ungarnished aperture in one's dull, 
undistinctive house- front affords a passage and which 
makes an interior of friendly corners, mysterious 
tones, and unbetrayed ingenuities, as well as with 
the low, magnificent medium of the sky, where the 
smoke and fog and the weather in general, the 
strangely undefined hour of the day and season 
of the year, the emanations of industries and the 



12 ENGLISH HOURS 

reflection of furnaces, the red gleams and blurs that 
may or may not be of sunset — as you never see 
any source of radiance, you can't in the least tell — 
all hang together in a confusion, a complication, a 
shifting but irremoveable canopy. They form the 
undertone of the deep, perpetual voice of the place. 
One remembers them when one's loyalty is on the 
defensive; when it is a question of introducing as 
many striking features as possible into the list of 
fine reasons one has sometimes to draw up, that 
eloquent catalogue with which one confronts the 
hostile indictment — the array of other reasons 
which may easily be as long as one's arm. Accord- 
ing to these other reasons it plausibly and conclu- 
sively stands that, as a place to be happy in, London 
will never do. I don't say it is necessary to meet so 
absurd an allegation except for one's personal com- 
placency. If indifference, in so gorged an organism, 
is still livelier than curiosity, you may avail your- 
self of your own share in it simply to feel that since 
such and such a person does n't care for real rich- 
ness, so much the worse for such and such a person. 
But once in a while the best believer recognises the 
impulse to set his religion in order, to sweep the tem- 
ple of his thoughts and trim the sacred lamp. It 
is at such hours as this that he reflects with elation 
that the British capital is the particular spot in the 
world which communicates the greatest sense of life. 



LONDON 13 

III 

The reader will perceive that I do not shrink even 
from the extreme concession of speaking of our 
capital as British, and this in a shameless connection 
with the question of loyalty on the part of an adopt- 
ive son. For I hasten to explain that if half the 
source of one's interest in it comes from feeling that 
it is the property and even the home of the human 
race, — Hawthorne, that best of Americans, says 
so somewhere, and places it in this sense side by 
side with Rome, — one's appreciation of it is really 
a large sympathy, a comprehensive love of human- 
ity. For the sake of such a charity as this one may 
stretch one's allegiance; and the most ahen of the 
cockneyfied, though he may bristle with every pro- 
test at the intimation that England has set its stamp 
upon him, is free to admit with conscious pride that 
he has submitted to Londonisation. It is a real 
stroke of luck for a particular country that the capi- 
tal of the human race happens to be British. Surely 
every other people would have it theirs if they could. 
Whether the English deserve to hold it any longer 
might be an interesting field of enquiry ; but as they 
have not yet let it sHp, the writer of these lines 
professes without scruple that the arrangement is to 
his personal taste. For, after all, if the sense of hfe 
is greatest there, it is a sense of the life of people of 



14 ENGLISH HOURS 

our consecrated English speech. It is the head- 
quarters of that strangely elastic tongue; and I 
make this remark with a full sense of the terrible 
way in which the idiom is misused by the populace 
in general, than whom it has been given to few 
races to impart to conversation less of the charm of 
tone. For a man of letters who endeavours to culti- 
vate, however modestly, the medium of Shakespeare 
and Milton, of Hawthorne and Emerson, who 
cherishes the notion of what it has achieved and 
what it may even yet achieve, London must ever 
have a great illustrative and suggestive value, and 
indeed a kind of sanctity. It is the single place in 
which most readers, most possible lovers, are gath- 
ered together; it is the most inclusive public and the 
largest social incarnation of the language, of the 
tradition. Such a personage may well let it go for 
this, and leave the German and the Greek to speak 
for themselves, to express the grounds of their pre- 
dilection, presumably very different. 

When a social product is so vast and various, it 
may be approached on a thousand different sides, 
and liked and disliked for a thousand different 
reasons. The reasons of Piccadilly are not those 
of Camden Town, nor are the curiosities and dis- 
couragements of Kilburn the same as those of 
Westminster and Lambeth. The reasons of Pic- 
cadilly — I mean the friendly ones — are those of 



LONDON 15 

which, as a general thing, the rooted visitor remains 
most conscious; but it must be confessed that even 
these, for the most part, do not He upon the surface. 
The absence of style, or rather of the intention of 
style, is certainly the most general characteristic of 
the face of London. To cross to Paris under this 
impression is to find one's self surrounded with far 
other standards. There everything reminds you 
that the idea of beautiful and stately arrangement 
has never been out of fashion, that the art of com- 
position has always been at work or at play. Avenues 
and squares, gardens and quays, have been distrib- 
uted for effect, and to-day the splendid city reaps the 
accumulation of all this ingenuity. The result is not 
in every quarter interesting, and there is a tiresome 
monotony of the "fine" and the symmetrical, above 
all, of the deathly passion for making things "to 
match." On the other hand the whole air of the 
place is architectural. On the banks of the Thames 
it is a tremendous chapter of accidents — the Lon- 
don-lover has to confess to the existence of miles 
upon miles of the dreariest, stodgiest commonness. 
Thousands of acres are covered by low black 
houses of the cheapest construction, without orna- 
ment, without grace, without character or even 
identity. In fact there are many, even in the best 
quarters, in all the region of Mayfair and Belgra- 
via, of so paltry and inconvenient, especially of so 



i6 ENGLISH HOURS 

diminutive a type (those that are let in lodgings — 
such poor lodgings as they make — may serve as an 
example), that you wonder what peculiarly limited 
domestic need they were constructed to meet. The 
great misfortune of London to the eye (it is true 
that this remark applies much less to the City), 
is the want of elevation. There is no architectural 
impression without a certain degree of height, and 
the London street- vista has none of that sort of 
pride. 

All the same, if there be not the intention, there 
is at least the accident, of style, which, if one looks 
at it in a friendly way, appears to proceed from 
three sources. One of these is simply the general 
greatness, and the manner in which that makes 
a difference for the better in any particular spot; so 
that, though you may often perceive yourself to be 
in a shabby corner, it never occurs to you that this 
is the end of it. Another is the atmosphere, with its 
magnificent mystifications, which flatters and super- 
fuses, makes everything brown, rich, dim, vague, 
magnifies distances and minimises details, con- 
firms the inference of vastness by suggesting that, 
as the great city makes everything, it makes its own 
system of weather and its own optical laws. The 
last is the congregation of the parks, which con- 
stitute an ornament not elsewhere to be matched, 
and give the place a superiority that none of its 




ENTRANCE TO ST. JAMES'S PARK 
Duke of York's column 



LONDON 17 

uglinesses overcome. They spread themselves with 
such a luxury of space in the centre of the town that 
they form a part of the impression of any walk, of 
almost any view, and, with an audacity altogether 
their own, make a pastoral landscape under the 
smoky sky. There is no mood of the rich London 
climate that is not becoming to them — I have seen 
them look delightfully romantic, like parks in 
novels, in the wettest winter — and there is scarcely 
a mood of the appreciative resident to which they 
have not something to say. The high things of 
London, which here and there peep over them, only 
make the spaces vaster by reminding you that you 
are, after all, not in Kent or Yorkshire; and these 
things, whatever they be — rows of "eligible" 
dwelhngs, towers of churches, domes of institutions 
— take such an effective grey-blue tint that a clever 
water-colourist would seem to have put them in for 
pictorial reasons. 

The view from the bridge over the Serpentine 
has an extraordinary nobleness, and it has often 
seemed to me that the Londoner, twitted with his 
low standard, may point to it with every confidence. 
In all the town-scenery of Europe there can be few 
things so fine; the only reproach it is open to is that 
it begs the question by seeming — in spite of its 
being the pride of five millions of people — not to 
belong to a town at all. The towers of Notre Dame, 



i8 ENGLISH HOURS 

as they rise in Paris from the island that divides 
the Seine, present themselves no more impressively 
than those of Westminster as you see them looking 
doubly far beyond the shining stretch of Hyde Park 
v^ater. Equally delectable is the large river-like 
manner in v^hich the Serpentine opens av^ay be- 
tvv^een its v^ooded shores. Just after you have crossed 
the bridge (whose very banisters, old and orna- 
mental, of yellowish-brown stone, I am particularly 
fond of), you enjoy on your left, through the gate of 
Kensington Gardens as you go towards Bayswater, 
an altogether enchanting vista — a foot-path over 
the grass, which loses itself beneath the scattered 
oaks and elms exactly as if the place were a " chase." 
There could be nothing less like London in general 
than this particular morsel, and yet it takes London, 
of all cities, to give you such an impression of the 
country. 

It takes London to put you in the way of a purely 
rustic walk from Notting Hill to Whitehall. You 
may traverse this immense distance — a most com- 
prehensive diagonal — altogether on soft, fine turf, 
amid the song of birds, the bleat of lambs, the ripple 
of ponds, the rustle of admirable trees. Frequently 
have I wished that, for the sake of such a daily 
luxury and of exercise made romantic, I were a 



LONDON 19 

Government clerk living, in snug domestic con- 
ditions, in a Pembridge villa, — let me suppose, 
— and having my matutinal desk in Westminster. 
I should turn into Kensington Gardens at their 
northwest limit, and I should have my choice of a 
hundred pleasant paths to the gates of Hyde Park. 
In Hyde Park I should follow the water-side, or 
the Row, or any other fancy of the occasion; hking 
best, perhaps, after all, the Row in its morning 
mood, with the mist hanging over the dark-red 
course, and the scattered early riders taking an 
identity as the soundless gallop brings them nearer. 
I am free to admit that in the Season, at the con- 
ventional hours, the Row becomes a weariness 
(save perhaps just for a ghmpse once a year, to 
remind one's self how much it is Hke Du Maurier) ; 
the preoccupied citizen eschews it and leaves it for 
the most part to the gaping barbarian. I speak of 
it now from the point of view of the pedestrian ; but 
for the rider as well it is at its best when he passes 
either too early or too late. Then, if he be not bent 
on comparing it to its disadvantage with the bluer 
and boskier alleys of the Bois de Boulogne, it will 
not be spoiled by the fact that, with its surface 
that looks Hke tan, its barriers like those of the ring 
on which the clown stands to hold up the hoop to the 
young lady, its empty benches and chairs, its occa- 
sional orange-peel, its mounted policemen patrolling 



20 ENGLISH HOURS 

at intervals like expectant supernumeraries, it 
offers points of real contact with a circus whose 
lamps are out. The sky that bends over it is fre- 
quently not a bad imitation of the dingy tent of 
such an establishment. The ghosts of past caval- 
cades seem to haunt the foggy arena, and some- 
how they are better company than the mashers 
and elongated beauties of current seasons. It is 
not without interest to remember that most of the 
salient figures of English society during the present 
century — and English society means, or rather 
has hitherto meant, in a large degree, English his- 
tory — have bobbed in the saddle between Apsley 
House and Queen's Gate. You may call the roll 
if you care to, and the air will be thick with dumb 
voices and dead names, Hke that of some Roman 
amphitheatre. 

It is doubtless a signal proof of being a London- 
lover quand meme that one should undertake an 
apology for so bungled an attempt at a great pubHc 
place as Hyde Park Corner. It is certain that the 
improvements and embellishments recently enacted 
there have only served to call further attention to 
the poverty of the elements and to the fact that this 
poverty is terribly illustrative of general conditions. 
The place is the beating heart of the great West 
End, yet its main features are a shabby, stuccoed 
hospital, the low park-gates, in their neat but unim- 



LONDON 21 

posing frame, the drawing-room windows of Apsley 
House and of the commonplace frontages on the 
little terrace beside it; to which must be added, of 
course, the only item in the whole prospect that is 
in the least monumental — the arch spanning the 
private road beside the gardens of Buckingham 
Palace. This structure is now bereaved of the rue- 
ful effigy which used to surmount it — the Iron 
Duke in the guise of a tin soldier — and has not 
been enriched by the transaction as much as might 
have been expected.' There is a fine view of Pic- 
cadilly and Knightsbridge, and of the noble man- 
sions, as the house-agents call them, of Grosvenor 
Place, together with a sense of generous space be- 
yond the vulgar little railing of the Green Park; 
but, except for the impression that there would be 
room for something better, there is nothing in 
all this that speaks to the imagination: almost as 
much as the grimy desert of Trafalgar Square the 
prospect conveys the idea of an opportunity wasted. 
None the less has it on a fine day in spring 
an expressiveness of which I shall not pretend to 
explain the source further than by saying that the 
flood of life and luxury is immeasurably great there. 
The edifices are mean, but the social stream itself 

I The monume.nt in the middle of the square, with Sir Edgar 
Boehm's four fine soldiers, had not been set up when these words 
were written. 



22 ENGLISH HOURS 

is monumental, and to an observer not purely stolid 
there is more excitement and suggestion than I can 
give a reason for in the long, distributed waves of 
traffic, with the steady policemen marking their 
rhythm, which roll together and apart for so many 
hours. Then the great, dim city becomes bright 
and kind, the pall of smoke turns into a veil of haze 
carelessly worn, the air is coloured and almost scented 
by the presence of the biggest society in the world, 
and most of the things that meet the eye — or per- 
haps I should say more of them, for the most in Lon- 
don is, no doubt, ever the realm of the dingy — 
present themselves as "well appointed." Every- 
thing shines more or less, from the window-panes 
to the dog-collars. So it all looks, with its myriad 
variations and qualifications, to one who surveys 
it over the apron of a hansom, while that vehicle of 
vantage, better than any box at the opera, spurts 
and slackens with the current. 

It is not in a hansom, however, that we have 
figured our punctual young man, whom we must 
not desert as he fares to the southeast, and who has 
only to cross Hyde Park Corner to find his way all 
grassy again. I have a weakness for the convenient, 
familiar, treeless, or almost treeless, expanse of the 
Green Park and the friendly part it plays as a kind 
of encouragement to Piccadilly. I am so fond of 
Piccadilly that I am grateful to any one or anything 




IN THE GREEN PARK 



LONDON 23 

that does it a service, and nothing is more worthy 
of appreciation than the southward look it is per- 
mitted to enjoy just after it passes Devonshire 
House — a sweep of horizon which it would be 
dijfhcult to match among other haunts of men, and 
thanks to which, of a summer's day, you may spy, 
beyond the browsed pastures of the foreground and 
middle distance, beyond the cold chimneys of 
Buckingham Palace and the towers of Westminster 
and the swarming river- side and all the southern 
parishes, the hard modern twinkle of the roof of the 
Crystal Palace. 

If the Green Park is famihar, there is still less 
of the exclusive in its pendant, as one may call it, 
— for it literally hangs from the other, down the 
hill, — the remnant of the former garden of the 
queer, shabby old palace whose black, inelegant 
face stares up St. James's Street. This popular 
resort has a great deal of character, but I am free 
to confess that much of its character comes from its 
nearness to the Westminster slums. It is a park of 
intimacy, and perhaps the most democratic corner 
of London, in spite of its being in the royal and 
military quarter and close to all kinds of stateliness. 
There are few hours of the day when a thousand 
smutty children are not sprawling over it, and the 
unemployed lie thick on the grass and cover the 
benches with a brotherhood of greasy corduroys. If 



24 ENGLISH HOURS 

the London parks are the drawing-rooms and clubs 
of the poor, — that is of those poor (I admit it cuts 
down the number) who hve near enough to them to 
reach them, — these particular grass-plots and alleys 
may be said to constitute the very salon of the slums. 
I know not why, being such a region of greatness, 

— great towers, great names, great memories ; at 
the foot of the Abbey, the Parliament, the fine frag- 
ment of Whitehall, with the quarters of the sover- 
eign right and left, — but the edge of Westminster 
evokes as many associations of misery as of empire. 
The neighbourhood has been much purified of late, 
but it still contains a collection of specimens — 
though it is far from unique in this — of the low, 
black element. The air always seems to me heavy 
and thick, and here more than elsewhere one hears 
old England — the panting, smoke-stained Titan 
of Matthew Arnold's fine poem — draw her deep 
breath with effort. In fact one is nearer to her heroic 
lungs, if those organs are figured by the great pin- 
nacled and fretted talking-house on the edge of the 
river. But this same dense and conscious air plays 
such everlasting tricks to the eye that the Foreign 
Office, as you see it from the bridge, often looks 
romantic, and the sheet of water it overhangs poetic 

— suggests an Indian palace bathing its feet in the 
Ganges. If our pedestrian achieves such a compari- 
son as this he has nothing left but to go on to his 



LONDON 25 

work — which he will find close at hand. He will 
have come the whole way from the far northwest on 
the green — which is what was to be demonstrated. 



I feel as if I were taking a tone almost of boast- 
fulness, and no doubt the best way to consider the 
matter is simply to say — without going into the 
treachery of reasons — that, for one's self, one 
likes this part or the other. Yet this course would 
not be unattended with danger, inasmuch as at the 
end of a few such professions we might find ourselves 
committed to a tolerance of much that is deplorable. 
London is so clumsy and so brutal, and has gathered 
together so many of the darkest sides of life, that it 
is almost ridiculous to talk of her as a lover talks 
of his mistress, and almost frivolous to appear to 
ignore her disfigurements and cruelties. She is like 
a mighty ogress who devours human flesh; but to 
me it is a mitigating circumstance — though it may 
not seem so to every one — that the ogress herself 
is human. It is not in wantonness that she fills her 
maw, but to keep herself ahve and do her tremen- 
dous work. She has no time for fine discriminations, 
but after all she is as good-natured as she is huge, 
and the more you stand up to her, as the phrase is, 
the better she takes the joke of it. It is mainly when 



26 ENGLISH HOURS 

you fall on your face before her that she gobbles 
you up. She heeds little what she takes, so long as 
she has her stint, and the smallest push to the right 
or the left will divert her wavering bulk from one 
form of prey to another. It is not to be denied that 
the heart tends to grow hard in her company; but 
she is a capital antidote to the morbid, and to live 
with her successfully is an education of the temper, 
a consecration of one's private philosophy. She 
gives one a surface for which in a rough world one 
can never be too thankful. She may take away 
reputations, but she forms character. She teaches 
her victims not to "mind," and the great danger 
for them is perhaps that they shall learn the lesson 
too well. 

It is sometimes a wonder to ascertain what they 
do mind, the best seasoned of her children. Many 
of them assist, without winking, at the most un- 
fathomable dramas, and the common speech of 
others denotes a familiarity with the horrible. It is 
her theory that she both produces and appreciates 
the exquisite ; but if you catch her in flagrant repu- 
diation of both responsibilities and confront her 
with the shortcoming, she gives you a look, with a 
shrug of her colossal shoulders, which establishes a 
private relation with you for evermore. She seems 
to say: " Do you really take me so seriously as that, 
you dear, devoted, voluntary dupe, and don't you 



LONDON 27 

know what an immeasurable humbug I am?" You 
reply that you shall know it henceforth; but your 
tone is good-natured, with a touch of the cynicism 
that she herself has taught you; for you are aware 
that if she makes herself out better than she is, she 
also makes herself out much worse. She is im- 
mensely democratic, and that, no doubt, is part of 
the manner in which she is salutary to the individ- 
ual; she teaches him his "place" by an incompar- 
able discipline, but deprives him of complaint by 
letting him see that she has exactly the same lash 
for every other back. When he has swallowed the 
lesson he may enjoy the rude but unfailing justice 
by which, under her eye, reputations and positions 
elsewhere esteemed great are reduced to the rela- 
tive. There are so many reputations, so many posi- 
tions, that supereminence breaks down, and it is 
difficult to be so rare that London can't match you. 
It is a part of her good-nature and one of her clumsy 
coquetries to pretend sometimes that she has n't 
your equivalent, as when she takes it into her head 
to hunt the lion or form a ring round a celebrity. 
But this artifice is so very transparent that the hon 
must be very candid or the celebrity very obscure 
to be taken by it. The business is altogether 
subjective, as the philosophers say, and the great 
city is primarily looking after herself. Celebrities 
are convenient — they are one of the things that 



28 ENGLISH HOURS 

people are asked to "meet" — and lion-cutlets, put 
upon ice, will nourish a family through periods of 
dearth. 

This is what I mean by calling London demo- 
cratic. You may be in it, of course, without being 
of it ; but from the moment you are of it — and on 
this point your own sense will soon enough enlighten 
you — you belong to a body in which a general 
equality prevails. However exalted, however able, 
however rich, however renowned you may be, there 
are too many people at least as much so for your own 
idiosyncracies to count. I think it is only by being 
beautiful that you may really prevail very much; 
for the loveliness of woman it has long been notice- 
able that London will go most out of her way. It 
is when she hunts that particular lion that she 
becomes most dangerous ; then there are really mo- 
ments when you would believe, for all the world, 
that she is thinking of what she can give, not of 
what she can get. Lovely ladies, before this, have 
paid for believing it, and will continue to pay in days 
to come. On the whole the people who are least 
deceived are perhaps those who have permitted 
themselves to believe, in their own interest, that 
poverty is not a disgrace. It is certainly not con- 
sidered so in London, and indeed you can scarcely 
say where — in virtue of diffusion — it would more 
naturally be exempt. The possession of money is, 



LONDON 29 

of course, immensely an advantage, but that is a very 
different thing from a disquahfication in the lack of it. 
Good-natured in so many things in spite of her 
cynical tongue, and easy-going in spite of her tre- 
mendous pace, there is nothing in which the large 
indulgence of the town is more shown than in the 
liberal way she looks at obligations of hospitality 
and the margin she allows in these and cognate 
matters. She wants above all to be amused; she 
keeps her books loosely, does n't stand on small 
questions of a chop for a chop, and if there be any 
chance of people's proving a diversion, does n't 
know or remember or care whether they have 
" called." She forgets even if she herself have called. 
In matters of ceremony she takes and gives a long 
rope, wasting no time in phrases and circumvalla- 
tions. It is no doubt incontestable that one result 
of her inability to stand upon trifles and consider 
details is that she has been obliged in some ways to 
lower rather portentously the standard of her man- 
ners. She cultivates the abrupt — for even when 
she asks you to dine a month ahead the invitation 
goes off like the crack of a pistol — and approaches 
her ends not exactly par quatre chemins. She does n't 
pretend to attach importance to the lesson conveyed 
in Matthew Arnold's poem of "The Sick King in 
Bokhara," that, 

'* Though we snatch what we desire, 
We may not snatch it eagerly." 



30 ENGLISH HOURS 

London snatches it more than eagerly if that be 
the only way she can get it. Good manners are a suc- 
cession of details, and I don't mean to say that 
she does n't attend to them when she has time. 
She has it, however, but seldom — que voulez-vous ? 
Perhaps the matter of note-writing is as good 
an example as another of what certain of the elder 
traditions inevitably have become in her hands. 
She lives by notes — they are her very heart-beats; 
but those that bear her signatures are as disjointed 
as the ravings of dehrium, and have nothing but 
a postage- stamp in common with the epistolary art. 

VI 

If she does n't go into particulars it may seem 
a very presumptuous act to have attempted to do so 
on her behalf, and the reader will doubtless think 
I have been punished by having egregiously failed in 
my enumeration. Indeed nothing could well be 
more difficult than to add up the items — the col- 
umn would be altogether too long. One may have 
dreamed of turning the glow — if glow it be — of 
one's lantern on each successive facet of the jewel; 
but, after all, it may be success enough if a confu- 
sion of brightness be the result. One has not the 
alternative of speaking of London as a whole, for 
the simple reason that there is no such thing as the 



LONDON 31 

whole. It is immeasurable — its embracing arms 
never meet. Rather it is a collection of many wholes, 
and of which of them is it most important to speak ? 
Inevitably there must be a choice, and I know of 
none more scientific than simply to leave out what 
we may have to apologise for. The uglinesses, the 
"rookeries," the brutahties, the night-aspect of 
many of the streets, the gin-shops and the hour 
when they are cleared out before closing — there 
are many elements of this kind which have to be 
counted out before a genial summary can be made. 
And yet I should not go so far as to say that it is 
a condition of such geniality to close one's eyes 
upon the immense misery ; on the contrary, I think 
it is partly because we are irremediably conscious 
of that dark gulf that the most general appeal of 
the great city remains exactly what it is, the largest 
chapter of human accidents. I have no idea of what 
the future evolution of the strangely mingled mon- 
ster may be; whether the poor will improve away 
the rich, or the rich will expropriate the poor, or they 
will all continue to dwell together on their present 
imperfect terms of intercourse. Certain it is, at any 
rate, that the impression of suffering is a part of 
the general vibration; it is one of the things that 
mingle with all the others to make the sound that 
is supremely dear to the consistent London-lover — 
the rumble of the tremendous human mill. This is 



32 ENGLISH HOURS 

the note which, in all its modulations, haunts and 
fascinates and inspires him. And whether or no 
he may succeed in keeping the misery out of the 
picture, he will freely confess that the latter is not 
spoiled for him by some of its duskiest shades. We 
are far from hking London well enough till we like 
its defects: the dense darkness of much of its win- 
ter, the soot on the chimney-pots and everywhere 
else, the early lamplight, the brown blur of the 
houses, the splashing of hansoms in Oxford Street 
or the Strand on December afternoons. 

There is still something that recalls to me the 
enchantment of children — the anticipation of 
Christmas, the delight of a holiday walk — in the 
way the shop-fronts shine into the fog. It makes 
each of them seem a little world of light and warmth, 
and I can still waste time in looking at them with 
dirty Bloomsbury on one side and dirtier Soho on 
the other. There are winter effects, not intrinsically 
sweet, it would appear, which somehow, in absence, 
touch the chords of memory and even the fount 
of tears; as for instance the front of the British 
Museum on a black afternoon, or the portico, when 
the weather is vile, of one of the big square clubs in 
Pall Mall. I can give no adequate account of the 
subtle poetry of such reminiscences; it depends 
upon associations of which we have often lost the 
thread. The wide colonnade of the Museum, its 



LONDON 33 

symmetrical wings, the high iron fence in its granite 
setting, the sense of the misty halls within, where 
all the treasures he — these things loom patiently 
through atmospheric layers which instead of mak- 
ing them dreary impart to them something of a 
cheer of red lights in a storm. I think the romance 
of a winter afternoon in London arises partly from 
the fact that, when it is not altogether smothered, 
the general lamplight takes this hue of hospitality. 
Such is the colour of the interior glow of the clubs 
in Pall Mall, which I positively like best when the 
fog loiters upon their monumental staircases. 

In saying just now that these retreats may easily 
be, for the exile, part of the phantasmagoria of 
homesickness, I by no means alluded simply to 
their solemn outsides. If they are still more solemn 
within, that does not make them any less dear, 
in retrospect at least, to a visitor much bent upon 
liking his London to the end. What is the solemnity 
but a tribute to your nerves, and the stillness but 
a refined proof of the intensity of life ? To produce 
such results as these the balance of many tastes 
must be struck, and that is only possible in a very 
high civilisation. If I seem to intimate that this 
last abstract term must be the cheer of him who 
has lonely possession of a foggy library, without 
even the excitement of watching for some one to put 
down the magazine he wants, I am willing to let the 



34 ENGLISH HOURS 

supposition pass, for the appreciation of a London 
club at one of the empty seasons is nothing but the 
strong expression of a preference for the great city 
— by no means so unsociable as it may superficially 
appear — at periods of relative abandonment. The 
London year is studded with holidays, blessed little 
islands of comparative leisure — intervals of ab- 
sence for good society. Then the v^onderful English 
faculty for "going out of town for a little change" 
comes into inimitable play, and famihes transport 
their nurseries and their bath-tubs to those rural 
scenes which form the real substratum of the na- 
tional life. Such moments as these are the paradise 
of the genuine London-lover, for he then finds him- 
self face to face with the object of his passion; he 
can give himself up to an intercourse which at other 
times is obstructed by his rivals. Then every one 
he knows is out of town, and the exhilarating sense 
of the presence of every one he does n't know be- 
comes by so much the deeper. 

This is why I pronounce his satisfaction not an 
unsociable, but a positively affectionate emotion. 
It is the mood in which he most measures the im- 
mense humanity of the place and in which its limits 
recede farthest into a dimness peopled with possible 
illustrations. For his acquaintance, however num- 
erous it may be, is finite; whereas the other, the 
unvisited London, is infinite. It is one of his pleas- 



LONDON 35 

ures to think of the experiments and excursions 
he may make in it, even when these adventures don't 
particularly come off. The friendly fog seems to 
protect and enrich them — to add both to the mys- 
tery and security, so that it is most in the winter 
months that the imagination weaves such dehghts. 
They reach their climax perhaps during the strictly 
social desolation of Christmas week, when the 
country-houses are crowded at the expense of the 
capital. Then it is that I am most haunted with 
the London of Dickens, feel most as if it were still 
recoverable, still exhaling its queerness in patches 
perceptible to the appreciative. Then the big fires 
blaze in the lone twilight of the clubs, and the new 
books on the tables say, "Now at last you have 
time to read me," and the afternoon tea and toast, 
and the torpid old gentleman w^ho wakes up from 
a doze to order potash-water, appear to make the 
assurance good. It is not a small matter either, to 
a man of letters, that this is the best time for writing, 
and that during the lamplit days the white page he 
tries to blacken becomes, on his table, in the circle of 
the lamp, with the screen of the cHmate folding him 
in, more vivid and absorbent. Those to whom it is 
forbidden to sit up to work in the small hours may, 
between November and March, enjoy a semblance 
of this luxury in the morning. The weather makes 
a kind of sedentary midnight and muffles the pos- 



36 ENGLISH HOURS 

sible interruptions. It is bad for the eyesight, but 
excellent for the image. 



VII 

Of course it is too much to say that all the satis- 
faction of life in London comes from literally living 
there, for it is not a paradox that a great deal of it con- 
sists in getting away. It is almost easier to leave it 
than not to, and much of its richness and interest 
proceeds from its ramifications, the fact that all 
England is in a suburban relation to it. Such an 
affair it is in comparison to get away from Paris or 
to get into it. London melts by wide, ugly zones 
into the green country, and becomes pretty insidi- 
ously, inadvertently — without stopping to change. 
It is the spoiling perhaps of the country, but it is 
the making of the insatiable town, and if one is a 
helpless and shameless cockney that is all one is 
obliged to look at. Anything is excusable which 
enlarges one's civic consciousness. It ministers 
immensely to that of the London-lover that, thanks 
to the tremendous system of coming and going, to 
the active, hospitable habits of the people, to the 
elaboration of the railway-service, the frequency 
and rapidity of trains, and last, though not least, 
to the fact that much of the loveHest scenery in 
England lies within a radius of fifty miles — thanks 



LONDON 37 

to all this he has the rural picturesque at his door 
and may cultivate unhmited vagueness as to the 
line of division between centre and circumference. 
It is perfectly open to him to consider the remainder 
of the United Kingdom, or the British empire in 
general, or even, if he be an American, the total of 
the English-speaking territories of the globe, as the 
mere margin, the fitted girdle. 

Is it for this reason — because I like to think how- 
great we all are together in the light of heaven and 
the face of the rest of the world, with the bond of 
our glorious tongue, in which we labour to write 
articles and books for each other's candid perusal, 
how great we all are and how great is the great city 
which we may unite fraternally to regard as the 
capital of our race — is it for this that I have a 
singular kindness for the London railway-stations, 
that I like them aesthetically, that they interest and 
fascinate me, and that I view them with compla- 
cency even when I wish neither to depart nor to 
arrive? They remind me of all our reciprocities 
and activities, our energies and curiosities, and our 
being all distinguished together from other people 
by our great common stamp of perpetual motion, 
our passion for seas and deserts and the other side 
of the globe, the secret of the impression of strength 
— I don't say of social roundness and finish — that 
we produce in any collection of Anglo-Saxon types. 



38 ENGLISH HOURS 

If in the beloved foggy season I delight in the spec- 
tacle of Paddington, Euston, or Waterloo, — I con- 
fess I prefer the grave northern stations, — I am 
prepared to defend myself against the charge of 
puerility; for v^hat I seek and what I find in these 
vulgar scenes is at bottom simply so much evidence 
of our larger way of looking at life. The exhibition 
of variety of type is in general one of the bribes by 
which London induces you to condone her abomina- 
tions, and the railway-platform is a kind of com- 
pendium of that variety. I think that nowhere so 
much as in London do people wear — to the eye 
of observation — definite signs of the sort of people 
they may be. If you like above all things to know 
the sort, you hail this fact with joy; you recognise 
that if the English are immensely distinct from other 
people, they are also socially — and that brings 
with it, in England, a train of moral and intellectual 
consequences — extremely distinct from each other. 
You may see them all together, with the rich colour- 
ing of their differences, in the fine flare of one of 
Mr. W. H. Smith's bookstalls — a feature not to 
be omitted in any enumeration of the charms of 
Paddington and Euston. It is a focus of warmth 
and hght in the vast smoky cavern ; it gives the idea 
that literature is a thing of splendour, of a dazzling 
essence, of infinite gas-lit red and gold. A glamour 
hangs over the glittering booth, and a tantahsing 



LONDON 39 

air of clever new things. How brilliant must the 
books all be, how veracious and courteous the fresh, 
pure journals! Of a Saturday afternoon, as you 
wait in your corner of the compartment for the 
starting of the train, the window makes a frame for 
the glowing picture. I say of a Saturday afternoon, 
because that is the most characteristic time — it 
speaks most of the constant circulation and in par- 
ticular of the quick jump, by express, just before 
dinner, for the Sunday, into the hall of the country- 
house and the forms of closer friendliness, the pro- 
longed talks, the famiharising walks which London 
excludes. 

There is the emptiness of summer as well, when 
you may have the town to yourself, and I would 
discourse of it — counting the summer from the 
first of August — were it not that I fear to seem 
ungracious in insisting so much on the negative 
phases. In truth they become positive in another 
manner, and I have an endearing recollection of 
certain happy accidents attached to the only period 
when London Hfe may be said to admit of accident. 
It is the most luxurious existence in the world, but 
of that especial luxury — the unexpected, the ex- 
temporized — it has in general too httle. In a 
very tight crowd you can't scratch your leg, and in 
London the^ social pressure is so great that it is dif- 
ficult to deflect from the perpendicular or to move 



40 ENGLISH HOURS 

otherwise than with the mass. There is too httle 
of the loose change of time ; every half-hour has its 
preappointed use, written down month by month 
in a little book. As I intimated, however, the pages 
of this volume exhibit from August to November 
an attractive blankness; they represent the season 
during which you may taste of that highest kind of 
inspiration, the inspiration of the moment. 

This is doubtless what a gentleman had in mind 
who once said to me, in regard to the vast resources 
of London and its having something for every taste, 
*'Oh, yes; when you are bored or want a httle 
change you can take the boat down to Blackwall." 
I have never had occasion yet to resort to this par- 
ticular remedy. Perhaps it's a proof that I have 
never been bored. Why Blackwall ? I indeed asked 
myself at the time ; nor have I yet ascertained what 
distractions the mysterious name represents. My 
interlocutor probably used it generically, as a free, 
comprehensive allusion to the charms of the river 
at large. Here the London-lover goes with him all 
the way, and indeed the Thames is altogether such 
a wonderful affair that he feels he has distributed 
his picture very clumsily not to have put it in the 
very forefront. Take it up or take it down, it is 
equally an adjunct of London life, an expression 
of London manners. 

From Westminster to the sea its uses are com- 




ST. PAUL'S, FROM THE WATER 



LONDON 41 

mercial, but none the less pictorial for that; while 
in the other direction — taking it properly a httle 
further up — they are personal, social, athletic, 
idyUic. In its recreative character it is absolutely 
unique. I know of no other classic stream that is so 
splashed about for the mere fun of it. There is 
something almost droll and at the same time almost 
touching in the way that on the smallest pretext of 
holiday or fine weather the mighty population takes 
to the boats. They bump each other in the narrow, 
charming channel; between Oxford and Richmond 
they make an uninterrupted procession. Nothing 
is more suggestive of the personal energy of the peo- 
ple and their eagerness to take, in the way of exer- 
cise and adventure, whatever they can get. I hasten 
to add that what they get on the Thames is exqui- 
site, in spite of the smallness of the scale and the 
contrast between the numbers and the space. In a 
word, if the river is the busiest suburb of London, 
it is also by far the prettiest. That term applies to 
it less of course from the bridges down, but it is 
only because in this part of its career it deserves 
a larger praise. To be consistent, I like it best when 
it is all dyed and disfigured with the town, and you 
look from bridge to bridge — they seem wonder- 
fully big and dim — over the brown, greasy current, 
the barges and the penny-steamers, the black, sor- 
did, heterogeneous shores. This prospect, of which 



42 ENGLISH HOURS 

so many of the elements are ignoble, etches itself 
to the eye of the lover of '' bits" with a power that is 
worthy perhaps of a better cause. 

The way that with her magnificent opportunity 
London has neglected to achieve a river-front is of 
course the best possible proof that she has rarely, 
in the past, been in the architectural mood which 
at present shows somewhat inexpensive signs of 
settling upon her. Here and there a fine fragment 
apologises for the failure which it does n't remedy. 
Somerset House stands up higher perhaps than 
anything else on its granite pedestal, and the palace 
of Westminster reclines — it can hardly be said to 
stand — on the big parliamentary bench of its ter- 
race. The Embankment, which is admirable if not 
particularly interesting, does what it can, and the 
mannered houses of Chelsea stare across at Batter- 
sea Park like eighteenth-century ladies surveying 
a horrid wilderness. On the other hand, the Char- 
ing Cross railway- station, placed where it is, is a 
national crime; Milbank prison is a worse act of 
violence than any it was erected to punish, and the 
water- side generally a shameless renunciation of 
effect. We acknowledge, however, that its very 
cynicism is expressive ; so that if one were to choose 
again — short of there being a London Louvre — 
between the usual Enghsh irresponsibility in such 
matters and some particular flight of conscience, one 




THE TERRACE, RICHMOND 



LONDON 43 

would perhaps do as well to let the case stand. We 
know what it is, the stretch from Chelsea to Wrap- 
ping, but we know not what it might be. It does n't 
prevent my being always more or less thrilled, of 
a summer afternoon, by the journey on a penny- 
steamer to Greenwich. 



VIII 



But why do I talk of Greenwich and remind my- 
self of one of the unexecuted vignettes with which 
it had been my plan that these desultory and, I fear, 
somewhat incoherent remarks should be studded? 
They will present to the reader no vignettes but 
those which the artist who has kindly consented to 
associate himself with my vagaries may be so good 
as to bestow upon them. Why should I speak of 
Hampstead, as the question of summer afternoons 
just threatened to lead me to do after I should have 
exhausted the subject of Greenwich, which I may 
not even touch ? Why should I be so arbitrary when 
I have cheated myself out of the space privately in- 
tended for a series of vivid and ingenious sketches 
of the particular physiognomy of the respective 
quarters of the town ? I had dreamed of doing them 
all, with their idiosyncrasies and the signs by which 
you shall know them. It is my pleasure to have 
learned these signs — a deeply interesting branch 



44 ENGLISH HOURS 

of observation — but I must renounce the display 
of my lore. 

I have not the conscience to talk about Hamp- 
stead, and what a pleasant thing it is to ascend the 
long hill which overhangs, as it were, St. John's 
Wood and begins at the Swiss Cottage — you must 
mount from there, it must be confessed, as you can 
— and pick up a friend at a house of friendship on 
the top, and stroll with him on the rusty Heath, 
and skirt the garden walls of the old square Georg- 
ian houses which survive from the time when, near 
as it is to-day to London, the place was a kind of 
provincial centre, with Joanna Baillie for its muse, 
and take the way by the Three Spaniards — I would 
never miss that — and look down at the smoky city 
or across at the Scotch firs and the red sunset. It 
would never do to make a tangent in that direction 
when I have left Kensington unsung and Blooms- 
bury unattempted, and have said never a word about 
the mighty eastward region — the queer corners, 
the dark secrets, the rich survivals and mementoes 
of the City. I particularly regret having sacrificed 
Kensington, the once-delightful, the Thackerayan, 
with its literary vestiges, its quiet, pompous red 
palace, its square of Queen Anne, its house of Lady 
Castlewood, its Greyhound tavern, where Henry 
Esmond lodged. 

But I can reconcile myself to this when I reflect 



LONDON 45 

that I have also sacrificed the Season, which doubt- 
less, from an elegant point of view, ought to have 
been the central morceau in the panorama. I have 
noted that the London-lover loves everything in the 
place, but I have not cut myself off from saying that 
his sympathy has degrees, or from remarking that 
the sentiment of the author of these pages has never 
gone all the way with the dense movement of the 
British carnival. That is really the word for the 
period from Easter to midsummer; it is a fine, 
decorous, expensive, Protestant carnival, in which 
the masks are not of velvet or silk, but of wonderful 
deceptive flesh and blood, the material of the most 
beautiful complexions in the world. Holding that 
the great interest of London is the sense the place 
gives us of multitudinous life, it is doubtless an 
inconsequence not to care most for the phase of 
greatest intensity. But there is life and life, and the 
rush and crush of these weeks of fashion is after all 
but a tolerably mechanical expression of human 
forces. Nobody would deny that it is a more univer- 
sal, brilliant, spectacular one than can be seen any- 
where else; and it is not a defect that these forces 
often take the form of women extremely beautiful. 
I risk the declaration that the London season brings 
together year by year an unequalled collection of 
handsome persons. I say nothing of the ugly ones; 
beauty has at the best been allotted to a small minor- 



46 ENGLISH HOURS 

ity, and it is never, at the most, anywhere, but a 
question of the number by which that minority is 
least insignificant. 

There are moments when one can almost forgive 
the follies of June for the sake of the smile which 
the sceptical old city puts on for the time and which, 
as I noted in an earher passage of this disquisition, 
fairly breaks into laughter where she is tickled by 
the vortex of Hyde Park Corner. Most perhaps 
does she seem to smile at the end of the summer 
days, when the light lingers and lingers, though the 
shadows lengthen and the mists redden and the 
belated riders, with dinners to dress for, hurry away 
from the trampled arena of the Park. The popula- 
tion at that hour surges mainly westward and sees 
the dust of the day's long racket turned into a dull 
golden haze. There is something that has doubtless 
often, at this particular moment, touched the fancy 
even of the bored and the biases in such an emana- 
tion of hospitality, of waiting dinners, of the festal 
idea, of the whole spectacle of the West End pre- 
paring herself for an evening six parties deep. The 
scale on which she entertains is stupendous, and her 
invitations and "reminders" are as thick as the 
leaves of the forest. 

For half an hour, from eight to nine, every pair 
of wheels presents the portrait of a diner-out. To 
consider only the rattling hansoms, the white neck- 



LONDON 47 

ties and "dressed" heads which greet you from 
over the apron in a quick, interminable succession, 
conveys the overv^helming impression of a comph- 
cated world. Who are they all, and where are they 
all going, and whence have they come, and what 
smoking kitchens and gaping portals and marshalled 
flunkies are prepared to receive them, from the 
southernmost hmits of a loosely interpreted, an 
almost transpontine Belgravia, to the hyperborean 
confines of St. John's Wood ? There are broughams 
standing at every door, and carpets laid down for 
the footfall of the issuing if not the entering reveller. 
The pavements are empty now, in the fading light, 
in the big sallow squares and the stuccoed streets 
of gentihty, save for the groups of small children 
holding others that are smaller — Ameliar-Ann in- 
trusted with Sarah Jane — who collect, wherever the 
strip of carpet lies, to see the fine ladies pass from 
the carriage or the house. The West End is dotted 
with these pathetic little gazing groups ; it is the party 
of the poor — their Season and way of dining out, 
and a happy illustration of "the sympathy that pre- 
vails between classes." The watchers, I should add, 
are by no means all children, but the lean mature 
also, and I am sure these wayside joys are one of the 
reasons of an inconvenience much deplored — the 
tendency of the country poor to flock to London. 
They who dine only occasionally or never at all 



48 ENGLISH HOURS 

have plenty of time to contemplate those with whom 
the custom has more amplitude. However, it was 
not my intention to conclude these remarks in a 
melancholy strain, and goodness knows that the 
diners are a prodigious company. It is as moralistic 
as I shall venture to be if I drop a very soft sigh on 
the paper as I confirm that truth. Are they all illu- 
minated spirits and is their conversation the ripest 
in the world ? This is not to be expected, nor should 
I ever suppose it to be desired that an agreeable 
society should fail to offer frequent opportunity 
for intellectual rest. Such a shortcoming is not one 
of the sins of the London world in general, nor 
would it be just to complain of that world, on any 
side, on grounds of deficiency. It is not what Lon- 
don fails to do that strikes the observer, but the 
general fact that she does everything in excess. 
Excess is her highest reproach, and it is her incur- 
able misfortune that there is really too much of her. 
She overwhelms you by quantity and number — 
she ends by making human life, by making civil- 
isation, appear cheap to you. Wherever you go, 
to parties, exhibitions, concerts, "private views," 
meetings, solitudes, there are already more people 
than enough on the field. How it makes you under- 
stand the high walls with which so much of English 
life is surrounded, and the priceless blessing of a 
park in the country, where there is nothing animated 



LONDON 49 

but rabbits and pheasants and, for the worst, the 
importunate nightingales! And as the monster 
grows and grows for ever, she departs more and 
more — it must be acknowledged — from the ideal 
of a convenient society, a society in which intimacy 
is possible, in which the associated meet often and 
sound and select and measure and inspire each 
other, and relations and combinations have time to 
form themselves. The substitute for this, in London, 
is the momentary concussion of a million of atoms. 
It is the difference between seeing a great deal of 
a few and seeing a httle of every one. "When did 
you come — are you 'going on?'" and it is over; 
there is no time even for the answer. This may seem 
a perfidious arraignment, and I should not make it 
were I not prepared, or rather were I not eager, to 
add two qualifications. One of these is that, cum- 
brously vast as the place may be, I would not have 
had it smaller by a hair's-breadth or have missed 
one of the fine and fruitful impatiences with which 
it inspires you and which are at bottom a heartier 
tribute, I think, than any great city receives. The 
other is that out of its richness and its inexhaustible 
good- humour it belies the next hour any generalisa- 
tion you may have been so simple as to make about it. 

1888. 



^J^^^^^Hj^ ' '' -^ 






'^Hlffln 




l^i 



BROWNING IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY 



THE lovers of a great poet are the people in the 
world who are most to be forgiven a little 
wanton fancy about him, for they have before them, 
in his genius and work, an irresistible example of 
the application of the imaginative method to a 
thousand subjects. Certainly, therefore, there are 
many confirmed admirers of Robert Browning to 
whom it will not have failed to occur that the con- 
signment of his ashes to the great temple of fame 
of the Enghsh race was exactly one of those occasions 



52 ENGLISH HOURS 

in which his own analytic spirit would have rejoiced 
and his irrepressible faculty for looking at human 
events in all sorts of slanting coloured lights have 
found a signal opportunity. If he had been taken 
with it as a subject, if it had moved him to the con- 
fused yet comprehensive utterance of which he was 
the great professor, we can immediately guess at 
some of the sparks he would have scraped from it, 
guess how splendidly, in the case, the pictorial sense 
would have intertwined itself with the metaphysical. 
For such an occasion would have lacked, for the 
author of ''The Ring and the Book," none of the 
complexity and convertibility that were dear to him. 
Passion and ingenuity, irony and solemnity, the 
impressive and the unexpected, would each have 
forced their way through; in a word the author 
would have been sure to take the special, circum- 
stantial view (the inveterate mark of all his specu- 
lation) even of so foregone a conclusion as that 
England should pay her greatest honour to one of 
her greatest poets. As they stood in the Abbey, at 
any rate, on Tuesday last, those of his admirers 
and mourners who were disposed to profit by his 
warrant for enquiring curiously may well have let 
their fancy range, with its muffled step, in the 
direction which his fancy would probably not have 
shrunk from following, even perhaps to the dim 
corners where humour and the whimsical lurk. 



BROWNING IN THE ABBEY 53 

Only, we hasten to add, it would have taken 
Robert Browning himself to render the multifold 
impression. 

One part of it on such occasion is of course 
irresistible — the sense that these honours are the 
greatest that a generous nation has to confer and 
that the emotion that accompanies them is one of 
the high moments of a nation's life. The attitude of 
the pubhc, of the multitude, at such hours, is a great 
expansion, a great openness to ideas of aspiration 
and achievement; the pride of possession and of 
bestowal, especially in the case of a career so com- 
plete as Mr. Browning's, is so present as to make 
regret a minor matter. We possess a great man 
most when we begin to look at him through the 
glass plate of death ; and it is a simple truth, though 
containing an apparent contradiction, that the 
Abbey never takes us so benignantly as when we 
have a valued voice to commit to silence there. For 
the silence is articulate after all, and in worthy in- 
stances the preservation great. It is the other side 
of the question that would pull most the strings of 
irresponsible reflection — all those conceivable pos- 
tulates and hypotheses of the poetic and satiric 
mind to which we owe the picture of how the bishop 
ordered his tomb in St. Praxed's. Macaulay's 
"temple of silence and reconciliation" — and none 
the less perhaps because he himself is now a presence 



54 ENGLISH HOURS 

there — strikes us, as we stand in it, not only as 
local but as social, a sort of corporate company; 
so thick, under its high arches, its dim transepts 
and chapels, is the population of its historic names 
and figures. They are a company in possession, 
with a high standard of distinction, of immortality, 
as it were; for there is something serenely inex- 
pugnable even in the position of the interlopers. 
As they look out, in the rich dusk, from the cold 
eyes of statues and the careful identity of tablets, 
they seem, with their converging faces, to scrutinise 
decorously the claims of each new recumbent glory, 
to ask each other how he is to be judged as an 
accession. How difficult to banish the idea that 
Robert Browning would have enjoyed prefiguring 
and playing with the mystifications, the reserva- 
tions, even perhaps the slight buzz of scandal, in the 
Poets' Corner, to which his own obsequies might 
give rise! Would not his great relish, in so charac- 
teristic an interview with his crucible, have been 
his perception of the bewildering modernness, to 
much of the society, of the new candidate for a 
niche? That is the interest and the fascination, 
from what may be termed the inside point of view, 
of Mr. Browning's having received, in this direction 
of becoming a classic, the only official assistance 
that is ever conferred upon English writers. 

It is as classics on one ground and another — some 




THE ABBEY, FROM VICTORIA STREET 



BROWNING IN THE ABBEY 55 

members of it perhaps on that of not being anything 
else — that the numerous assembly in the Abbey 
holds together, and it is as a tremendous and in- 
comparable modern that the author of "Men and 
Women" takes his place in it. He introduces to his 
predecessors a kind of contemporary individualism 
which surely for many a year they had not been 
reminded of with any such force. The tradition of 
the poetic character as something high, detached, 
and simple, which may be assumed to have pre- 
vailed among them for a good while, is one that 
Browning has broken at every turn; so that we can 
imagine his new associates to stand about him, till 
they have got used to him, with rather a sense of 
faihng measures. A good many oddities and a good 
many great writers have been entombed in the 
Abbey ; but none of the odd ones have been so great 
and none of the great ones so odd. There are plenty 
of poets whose right to the title may be contested, 
but there is no poetic head of equal power — crowned 
and recrowned by almost importunate hands — 
from which so many people would withhold the 
distinctive wreath. All this will give the marble 
phantoms at the base of the great pillars, and the 
definite personalities of the honorary slabs some- 
thing to puzzle out until, by the quick operation 
of time, the mere fact of his lying there among 
the classified and protected makes even Robert 



56 ENGLISH HOURS 

Browning lose a portion of the bristling surface of 
his actuahty. 

For the rest, judging from the outside and with 
his contemporaries, we of the public can only feel 
that his very modernness — by which we mean 
the all-touching, all-trying spirit of his work, per- 
meated with accumulations and playing with know- 
ledge — achieves a kind of conquest, or at least of 
extension, of the rigid pale. We cannot enter here 
upon any account either of that or of any other ele- 
ment of his genius, though surely no literary figure 
of our day seems to sit more unconsciously for the 
painter. The very imperfections of this original are 
fascinating, for they never present themselves as 
weaknesses; they are boldnesses and overgrowths, 
rich roughnesses and humours, and the patient critic 
need not despair of digging to the primary soil from 
which so many disparities and contradictions spring. 
He may finally even put his finger on some explana- 
tion of the great mystery, the imperfect conquest 
of the poetic form by a genius in which the poetic 
passion had such volume and range. He may 
successfully say how it was that a poet without a 
lyre — for that is practically Browning's deficiency: 
he had the scroll, but not often the sounding strings 
— was nevertheless, in his best hours, wonderfully 
rich in the magic of his art, a magnificent master of 
poetic emotion. He will justify on behalf of a multi- 



BROWNING IN THE ABBEY 57 

tude of devotees the great position assigned to a 
writer of verse of which the nature or the fortune 
has been (in proportion to its value and quantity) 
to be treated rarely as quotable. He will do all this 
and a great deal more besides ; but we need not wait 
for it to feel that something of our latest sympathies, 
our latest and most restless selves, passed the other 
day into the high part — the show-part, to speak 
vulgarly — of our hterature. To speak of Mr. 
Browning only as he was in the last twenty years 
of his life, how quick such an imagination as his 
would have been to recognise all the latent or mys- 
tical suitabihties that, in the last resort, might link 
to the great Valhalla by the Thames a figure that 
had become so conspicuously a figure of London! 
He had grown to be intimately and inveterately of 
the London world ; he was so familiar and recurrent, 
so responsive to all its solicitations, that, given the 
endless incarnations he stands for to-day, he would 
have been missed from the congregation of worthies 
whose memorials are the special pride of the Lon- 
doner. Just as his great sign to those who knew 
him was that he was a force of health, of tempera- 
ment, of tone, so what he takes into the Abbey is an 
immense expression of life — of life rendered with 
large liberty and free experiment, with an unpre- 
judiced intellectual eagerness to put himself in 
other people's place, to participate in comphcations 



58 ENGLISH HOURS 

and consequences; a restlessness of psychological 
research that might well alarm any pale company 
for their formal orthodoxies. 

But the illustrious whom he rejoins may be re- 
assured, as they will not fail to discover: in so far 
as they are representative it will clear itself up that, 
in spite of a surface unsuggestive of marble and a 
reckless individualism of form, he is quite as repre- 
sentative as any of them. For the great value of 
Browning is that at bottom, in all the deep spiritual 
and human essentials, he is unmistakably in the 
great tradition — is, with all his Italianisms and 
cosmopolitanisms, all his victimisation by societies 
organised to talk about him, a magnificent exam- 
ple of the best and least dilettantish EngUsh spirit. 
That constitutes indeed the main chance for his 
eventual critic, who will have to solve the refreshing 
problem of how, if subtleties be not what the Eng- 
lish spirit most dehghts in, the author of, for in- 
stance, "Any Wife to Any Husband" made them 
his perpetual pasture, and yet remained typically of 
his race. He was indeed a wonderful mixture of 
the universal and the alembicated. But he played 
with the curious and the special, they never sub- 
merged him, and it was a sign of his robustness 
that he could play to the end. His voice sounds 
loudest, and also clearest, for the things that, as 
a race, we like best — the fascination of faith, the 



BROWNING IN THE ABBEY 59 

acceptance of life, the respect for its mysteries, the 
endurance of its charges, the vitahty of the will, 
the validity of character, the beauty of action, the 
seriousness, above all, of the great human passion. 
If Browning had spoken for us in no other way, 
he ought to have been made sure of, tamed and 
chained as a classic, on account of the extraordinary 
beauty of his treatment of the special relation 
between man and woman. It is a complete and 
splendid picture of the matter, which somehow 
places it at the same time in the region of conduct 
and responsibihty. But when we talk of Robert 
Browning's speaking "for us," we go to the end of 
our privilege, we say all. With a sense of security, 
perhaps even a certain complacency, we leave our 
sophisticated modern conscience, and perhaps even 
our heterogeneous modern vocabulary, in his charge 
among the illustrious. There will possibly be mo- 
ments in which these things will seem to us to have 
widened the allowance, made the high abode more 
comfortable, for some of those who are yet to enter it. 

1890. 




CHESTER 

IF the Atlantic voyage be counted, as it certainly 
may, even v^ith the ocean in a fairly good 
humour, an emphatic zero in the sum of one's better 
experience, the American traveller arriving at this 
venerable town iinds himself transported, v^ithout 
a sensible gradation, from the edge of the new world 
to the very heart of the old. It is almost a misfortune 
perhaps that Chester lies so close to the threshold of 
England; for it is so rare and complete a specimen 
of an antique town that the later-coming wonders of 
its sisters in renown, — of Shrewsbury, Coventry, 
and York — suffer a trifle by comparison, and the 



62 ENGLISH HOURS 

tourist's appetite for the picturesque just loses its 
finer edge. Yet the first impressions of an observant 
American in England — of our old friend the sen- 
timental tourist — stir up within him such a cloud 
of sensibility that while the charm is still unbroken 
he may perhaps as well dispose mentally of the 
greater as of the less. I have been playing at first 
impressions for the second time, and have won the 
game against a cynical adversary. I have been stroll- 
ing and restrolling along the ancient wall — so per- 
fect in its antiquity — which locks this dense little 
city in its stony circle, with a certain friend who has 
been treating me to a bitter lament on the decay of 
his relish for the picturesque. "I have turned the 
corner of youth," is his ceaseless plaint; "I sus- 
pected it, but now I know it — now that my heart 
beats but once where it beat a dozen times before, 
and that where I found sermons in stones and pic- 
tures in meadows, delicious revelations and inti- 
mations ineffable, I find nothing but the hard, heavy 
prose of British civilisation." But httle by little 
I have grown used to my friend's sad monody, and 
indeed feel half indebted to it as a warning against 
cheap infatuations. 

I defied him, at any rate, to argue successfully 
against the effect of the brave httle walls of Chester. 
There could be no better example of that phe- 
nomenon so delightfully frequent in England — an 



CHESTER 63 

ancient property or institution lovingly readopted 
and consecrated to some modern amenity. The 
good Cestrians may boast of their walls without 
a shadow of that mental reservation on grounds 
of modern ease which is so often the tax paid by the 
romantic; and I can easily imagine that, though 
most modern towns contrive to get on comfortably 
without this stony girdle, these people should have 
come to regard theirs as a prime necessity. For 
through it, surely, they may know their city more 
intimately than their unbuckled neighbours — sur- 
vey it, feel it, rejoice in it as many times a day as they 
please. The civic consciousness, sunning itself thus 
on the city's rim and glancing at the little swarm- 
ing towered and gabled town within, and then at 
the blue undulations of the near Welsh border, may 
easily deepen to dehcious complacency. The wall 
enfolds the place in a continuous ring, which, pass- 
ing through innumerable picturesque vicissitudes, 
often threatens to snap, but never fairly breaks the 
link; so that, starting at any point, an hour's easy 
stroll will bring you back to your station. I have 
quite lost my heart to this charming creation, and 
there are so many things to be said about it that I 
hardly know where to begin. The great fact, I sup- 
pose, is that it contains a Roman substructure, rests 
for much of its course on foundations laid by that 
race of master-builders. But in spite of this sturdy 



64 ENGLISH HOURS 

origin, much of which is buried in the well-trodden 
soil of the ages, it is the gentlest and least offensive 
of ramparts; it completes its long irregular curve 
without a frown or menace in all its disembattled 
stretch. The earthy deposit of time has indeed in 
some places chmbed so high about its base that 
it amounts to no more than a causeway of modest 
dimensions. It has everywhere, however, a rugged 
outer parapet and a broad hollow flagging, wide 
enough for two strollers abreast. Thus equipped, 
it wanders through its adventurous circuit; now 
sloping, now bending, now broadening into a ter- 
race, now narrowing into an alley, now swelling 
into an arch, now dipping into steps, now passing 
some thorn- screened garden, and now reminding 
you that it was once a more serious matter than all 
this by the extrusion of a rugged, ivy-smothered 
tower. 

Its final hoary humility is enhanced, to your 
mind, by the freedom with which you may ap- 
proach it from any point in the town. Every few 
steps, as you go, you see some little court or alley 
boring toward it through the close-pressed houses. 
It is full of that delightful element of the crooked, 
the accidental, the unforeseen, which, to American 
eyes, accustomed to our eternal straight lines and 
right angles, is the striking feature of European 
street scenery. An American strolling in the Chester 




CHESTER HIGH STREET 



CHESTER 65 

streets finds a perfect feast of crookedness — of 
those random corners, projections, and recesses, 
odd domestic interspaces charmingly saved or lost, 
those innumerable architectural surprises and ca- 
prices and fantasies which lead to such refreshing 
exercise a vision benumbed by brown-stone fronts. 
An American is bom to the idea that on his walks 
abroad it is perpetual level wall ahead of him, and 
such a revelation as he finds here of infinite accident 
and infinite effect gives a wholly novel zest to the 
use of his eyes. It produces too the reflection — a 
superficial and fallacious one perhaps — that amid 
all this cunning chiaroscuro of its mise en scene life 
must have more of a certain homely entertainment. 
It is at least no fallacy to say that childhood — or 
the later memor}' of childhood — must borrow from 
such a background a kind of anecdotical wealth. 
We all know how in the retrospect of later moods 
the incidents of early youth ''compose,'' visibly, 
each as an individual picture, with a magic for which 
the greatest painters have no corresponding art. 
There is a vivid reflection of this magic in some of 
the early pages of Dickens's ''Copperfield" and 
of George Ehot's ''Mill on the Floss," the writers 
having had the happiness of growing up among 
old, old things. Two or three of the phases of this 
rambling wafl belong especiaUy to the class of things 
fondly rem-embered. In one place it skirts the edge 



66 ENGLISH HOURS 

of the cathedral graveyard and sweeps beneath the 
great square tower and behind the sacred east win- 
dow of the choir. 

Of the cathedral there is more to say; but just 
the spot I speak of is the best standpoint for 
feeling how fine an influence in the architectural 
line — where theoretically, at least, influences are 
great — is the massive tower of an English abbey, 
dominating the homes of men; and for watching 
the eddying flight of swallows make vaster still to 
the eye the high calm fields of stonework. At an- 
other point two battered and crumbling towers, 
decaying in their winding-sheets of ivy, make a pro- 
digiously designed diversion. One inserted in the 
body of the wall and the other connected with it by 
a short, crumbling ridge of masonry, they contribute 
to a positive jumble of local colour. A shaded mall 
wanders at the foot of the rampart ; beside this passes 
a narrow canal, with locks and barges and burly 
watermen in smocks and breeches ; while the vener- 
able pair of towers, with their old red sandstone 
sides peeping through the gaps in their green man- 
tles, rest on the soft grass of one of those odd frag- 
ments of public garden, a crooked strip of ground 
turned to social account, which one meets at every 
turn, apparently, in England — a tribute to the 
needs of the "masses." Stat magni nominis umbra. 
The quotation is doubly pertinent here, for this Httle 



CHESTER 67 

garden- strip is adorned with mossy fragments of 
Roman stonework, bits of pavement, altars, baths, 
disinterred in the local soil. England is the land of 
small economies, and the present rarely fails to find 
good use for the odds and ends of the past. These 
two hoary shells of masonry are therefore converted 
into "museums," receptacles for the dustiest and 
shabbiest of tawdry back-parlour curiosities. Here 
preside a couple of those grotesque creatures, d la 
Dickens, whom one finds squeezed into every cranny 
of English civihsation, scraping a thin subsistence 
Hke mites in a mouldy cheese. 

Next after its wall — possibly even before it — 
Chester values its Rows, an architectural idiosyn- 
crasy which must be seen to be appreciated. They 
are a sort of gothic edition of the blessed arcades 
and porticoes of Italy, and consist, roughly speak- 
ing, of a running public passage tunnelled through 
the second story of the houses. The low basement 
is thus directly on the drive-way, to which a flight 
of steps descends, at frequent intervals, from this 
superincumbent verandah. The upper portion of 
the houses projects to the outer line of the gallery, 
where they are propped with pillars and posts and 
parapets. The shop-fronts face along the arcade 
and admit you to Httle caverns of traffic, more or less 
dusky according to their opportunities for illumi- 
nation in the rear. If the romantic be measured 



68 ENGLISH HOURS 

by its hostility to our modern notions of conven- 
ience, Chester is probably the most romantic city 
in the world. This arrangement is endlessly rich in 
opportunities for amusing effect, but the full charm 
of the architecture of which it is so essential a part 
must be observed from the street below. Chester is 
still an antique town, and mediaeval England sits 
bravely under her gables. Every third house is a 
'' specimen" — gabled and latticed, timbered and 
carved, and wearing its years more or less lightly. 
These ancient dwelhngs present every shade and 
degree of historical colour and expression. Some 
are dark with neglect and deformity, and the hori- 
zontal slit admitting light into the lurking Row 
seems to collapse on its dislocated props hke a pair 
of toothless old jaws. Others stand there square- 
shouldered and sturdy, with their beams painted 
and straightened, their plaster whitewashed, their 
carvings polished, and the low casement covering 
the breadth of the frontage adorned with curtains 
and flower-pots. It is noticeable that the actual 
townsfolk have bravely accepted the situation be- 
queathed by the past, and the large number of rich 
and intelligent restorations of the old facades makes 
an effective jumble of their piety and their policy. 
These elaborate and ingenious repairs attest a highly 
informed consciousness of the pictorial value of the 
city. I indeed suspect much of this revived inno- 




THE ROWS, CHESTER 



CHESTER 69 

cence of having recovered a freshness that never can 
have been, of having been restored with usurious 
interest. About the genuine antiques there v^ould 
be properly a great deal to say, for they are really 
a theme for the philosopher; but the theme is too 
heavy for my pen, and I can give them but the pass- 
ing tribute of a sigh. They are cruelly quaint, dread- 
fully expressive. Fix one of them with your gaze 
and it seems fairly to reek with mortahty. Every 
stain and crevice seems to syllable some human 
record — a record of lives airless and unlighted. I 
have been trying hard to fancy them animated by 
the children of "Merry England," but I am quite 
unable to think of them save as peopled by the vic- 
tims of dismal old-world pains and fears. Human 
life, surely, packed away behind those impenetrable 
lattices of lead and bottle-glass, just above which 
the black outer beam marks the suffocating near- 
ness of the ceiling, can have expanded into scant 
freedom and bloomed into small sweetness. 

Nothing has struck me more in my strolls along 
the Rows than the fact that the most zealous ob- 
servation can keep but uneven pace with the fine 
differences in national manners. Some of the most 
sensible of these differences are yet so subtle and 
indefinable that one must give up the attempt to 
express them, though the omission leave but a rough 
sketch. As you pass with the bustling current from 



70 ENGLISH HOURS 

shop to shop you feel local custom and tradition — 
another tone of things — pressing on you from every 
side. The tone of things is somehow heavier than 
with us; manners and modes are more absolute 
and positive; they seem to swarm and to thicken 
the atmosphere about you. Morally and physically 
it is a denser air than ours. We seem loosely hung 
together at home as compared with the EngHsh, 
every man of whom is a tight fit in his place. It is 
not an inferential but a palpable fact that England 
is a crowded country. There is stillness and space 
— grassy, oak-studded space — at Eaton Hall, where 
the Marquis of Westminster dwells (or I believe can 
afford to humourhis notion of not dweUing), but there 
is a crowd and a hubbub in Chester. Wherever you 
go the population has overflowed. You stroll on the 
walls at eventide and you hardly find elbow-room. 
You haunt the cathedral shades and a dozen saunter- 
ing mortals temper your solitude. You glance up an 
alley or side street and discover populous windows 
and doorsteps. You roll along country roads and 
find countless humble pedestrians dotting the green 
waysides. The English landscape is always a " land- 
scape with figures." And everywhere you go you 
are accompanied by a vague consciousness of the 
British child hovering about your knees and coat- 
skirts, naked, grimy, and portentous. You reflect 
with a sort of physical rehef on Australia, Canada^ 



CHESTER 71 

India. Where there are many men, of course, there 
are many needs; which helps to justify to the philo- 
sophic stranger the vast number and the irresistible 
coquetry of the little shops which adorn these low- 
browed Rows. The shop-fronts have always seemed 
to me the most elegant things in England; and I 
waste more time than I should care to confess to in 
covetous contemplation of the vast, clear panes be- 
hind which the nether integuments of gentlemen are 
daintily suspended from glittering brass rods. The 
manners of the dealers in these comfortable wares 
seldom fail to confirm your agreeable impression. 
You are thanked with effusion for expending two- 
pence — a fact of deep significance to the truly ana- 
lytic mind, and which always seems to me a vague 
reverberation from certain of Miss Edgeworth's 
novels, perused in childhood. When you think of 
the small profits, the small jealousies, the long wait- 
ing and the narrow margin for evil days implied by 
this redundancy of shops and shopmen, you hear 
afresh the steady rumble of that deep keynote of 
English manners, overscored so often, and with 
such sweet beguilement, by finer harmonies, but 
never extinguished — the economic struggle for 
existence. 

The Rows are as " scenic " as one could wish, 
and it is a pity that before the birth of their mod- 
ern consciousness there was no Enghsh Balzac to 



72 ENGLISH HOURS 

introduce them into a realistic romance with a psy- 
chological commentary. But the cathedral is better 
still, modestly as it stands on the roll of English 
abbeys. It is of moderate dimensions and rather 
meagre in form and ornament ; but to an American 
it expresses and answers for the type, producing 
thereby the proper vibrations. Among these is a 
certain irresistible regret that so much of its hoary 
substance should give place to the fine, fresh- coloured 
masonry with which Mr. Gilbert Scott, ruthless 
renovator, is so intelligently investing it. The red 
sandstone of the primitive structure, darkened and 
devoured by time, survives at many points in frown- 
ing mockery of the imputed need of tinkering. The 
great tower, however, — completely restored, — rises 
high enough to seem to belong, as cathedral towers 
should, to the far-off air that vibrates with the chimes 
and the swallows, and to square serenely, east and 
west and south and north, its embossed and fluted 
sides. Enghsh cathedrals, within, are apt at first to 
look pale and naked; but after a while, if the pro- 
portions be fair and the spaces largely distributed, 
when you perceive the light beating softly down 
from the cold clerestory and your eye measures 
caressingly the tallness of columns and the hollow- 
ness of arches, and lingers on the old genteel in- 
scriptions of mural marbles and brasses ; and, above 
all, when you become conscious of that sweet, cool 




CHESTER CATHEDRAL, WEST FRONT 



CHESTER 73 

mustiness in the air which seems to haunt these 
places as the very chmate of Episcopacy, you may 
grow to feel that they are less the empty shells of a 
departed faith than the abodes of a faith which may 
still affirm a presence and awaken echoes. Catholi- 
cism has gone, but Anglicanism has the next best 
music. So at least it seemed to me, a Sunday or two 
since, as I sat in the choir at Chester awaiting a dis- 
course from Canon Kingsley. The Anglican service 
had never seemed to my profane sense so much an 
affair of magnificent intonations and cadences — 
of pompous effects of resonance and melody. The 
vast oaken architecture of the stalls among which 
we nestled — somewhat stiffly and with a due ap- 
prehension of wounded ribs and knees — climbing 
vainly against the dizzier reach of the columns ; the 
beautiful English voices of certain officiating canons, 
the httle rosy ''king's scholars" sitting ranged be- 
neath the pulpit, in white-winged surplices, which 
made their heads, above the pew-edges, look like 
rows of sleepy cherubs: every element in the scene 
gave it a great spectacular beauty. They suggested 
too what is suggested in England at every turn, that 
conservatism here has all the charm and leaves 
dissent and democracy and other vulgar variations 
nothing but their bald logic. Conservatism has the 
cathedrals, the colleges, the castles, the gardens, 
the traditions, the associations, the fine names, the 



74 ENGLISH HOURS 

] better manners, the poetry; Dissent has the dusky 
brick chapels in provincial by-streets, the names out 

. of Dickens, the uncertain tenure of the h^ and the 

f poor mens sihi conscia recti. Differences which in 
other countries are slight and varying, almost meta- 

; physical, as one may say, are marked in England 
by a gulf. Nowhere else does the degree of one's 

I respectability involve such solid consequences, and 
I am sure I don't wonder that the sacramental word 
which with us (and, in such correlatives as they pos- 
sess, more or less among the continental races) is 

I pronounced lightly and facetiously and as a quota- 
tion from the Phihstines, is uttered here with a per- 

, fectly grave face. To have the courage of one's mere 
convictions is in short to have a prodigious deal of 
courage, and I think one must need as much to be 
a Dissenter as one needs patience not to be a duke. 
Perhaps the Dissenters (to hmit the question to 
them) manage to stay out of the church by letting it 
all hang on the sermon. Canon Kingsley's discourse 
was one more example of the famihar truth — not 
without its significance to minds zealous for the good 
old fashion of ''making an effort," — that there is 
an odd link between large forms and small emana- 
tions. The sermon, beneath that triply consecrated 
vault, should have had a builded majesty. It had 
not ; and I confess that a tender memory of ancient 
obhgations to the author of "Westward Ho!" and 



CHESTER 75 

" Hypatia " forbids my saying more of it. An Ameri- 
can, I think, is not incapable of taking a secret satis- 
faction in an incongruity of this kind. He finds with 
rehef that even mortals reared as in the ring of 
a perpetual circus are only mortals. His constant 
sense of the beautiful scenic properties of English 
life is apt to beget a habit of melancholy reference 
to the dead-blank wall which forms the background 
of our own life-drama; and from doubting in this 
fantastic humour whether we have even that modest 
value in the scale of beauty that he has sometimes 
fondly hoped, he lapses into a moody scepticism as 
to our place in the scale of "importance," and finds 
himself wondering vaguely whether this be not a 
richer race as well as a lovelier land. That of course 
will never do; so that when after being escorted 
down the beautiful choir in what, from the Ameri- 
can point of view, is an almost gorgeous ecclesias- 
tical march, by the Dean in a white robe trimmed 
with scarlet and black- robed sacristans carrying 
silver wands, the officiating canon mounts into a 
splendid canopied and pinnacled pulpit of gothic 
stonework and proves — not an "acting" Jeremy 
Taylor, our poor sentimental tourist begins to hold 
up his head again and to reflect that so far as we 
have opportunities we mostly rise to them. I am 
not sure indeed that in the excess of his reaction he 
is not tempted to accuse his English neighbours 



76 



ENGLISH HOURS 



of being impenetrable and uninspired, to affirm 

that they do not half discern their good fortune, 

and that it takes passionate pilgrims, vague ahens, 

and other disinherited persons to appreciate the 

"points" of this admirable country. 

1872. 





LICHFIELD AND WARWICK 



TO write at Oxford of anything but Oxford re- 
quires, on the part of the sentimental tourist, 
no small power of mental abstraction. Yet I have 
it at heart to pay to three or four other scenes re- 
cently visited the debt of an enjoyment hardly less 
profound than my reHsh for this scholastic paradise. 
First among these is the cathedral city of Lichfield — 
the city, I say, because Lichfield has a character of 
its own apart from its great ecclesiastical feature. 
In the centre of its little market-place — dullest and 



78 ENGLISH HOURS 

sleepiest of provincial market-places — rises a huge 
effigy of Dr. Johnson, the genius loci, who was 
constructed, humanly, with very nearly as large an 
architecture as the great abbey. The Doctor's statue, 
which is of some inexpensive composite painted 
a shiny brown, and of no great merit of design, fills 
out the vacant dulness of the little square in much 
the same way as his massive personality occupies — 
with just a margin for Garrick — the record of his 
native town. In one of the volumes of Croker's 
"Bos well" is a steel plate of the old Johnsonian 
birth-house, by the aid of a vague recollection of 
which I detected the dwelling beneath its modern- 
ised frontage. It bears no mural inscription and, 
save for a hint of antiquity in the receding basement, 
with pillars supporting the floor above, seems in no 
especial harmony with Johnson's time or fame. Lich- 
field in general appeared to me indeed to have little 
to say about her great son beyond the fact that the 
smallness and the sameness and the dulness, amid 
which it is so easy to fancy a great intellectual appe- 
tite turning sick with inanition, may help to explain 
the Doctor's subsequent almost ferocious fondness 
for London. I walked about the silent streets, trying 
to repeople them with wigs and short-clothes, and, 
while I lingered near the cathedral, endeavoured to 
guess the message of its gothic graces to Johnson's 
ponderous classicism. But I achieved but a colour- 



LICHFIELD AND WARWICK 79 

less picture at the best, and the most vivid image in 
my mind's eye was that of the London coach facing 
towards Temple Bar with the young author of " Ras- 
selas" scowling near-sightedly from the cheapest 
seat. With him goes the interest of Lichfield town. 
The place is stale without being really antique. It is 
as if that prodigious temperament had absorbed and 
appropriated its original vitality. 

If every dull provincial town, however, formed 
but a girdle of quietude to a cathedral as rich as that 
of Lichfield, one would thank it for letting one alone. 
Lichfield cathedral is great among churches, and 
bravely performs the prime duty of objects of its 
order — that of seeming for the time (to minds 
unsophisticated by architectural culture) the finest, 
on the whole, of all such objects. This one is rather 
oddly placed, on the slope of a hill, the particular 
spot having been chosen, I believe, because sancti- 
fied by the sufferings of certain primitive martyrs; 
but it is fine to see how its upper portions surmount 
any crookedness of posture and its great towers over- 
take in mid- air the conditions of perfect symmetry. 
The close is extraordinarily attractive ; a long sheet 
of water expands behind it and, besides leading 
the eye off into a sweet green landscape, renders 
the inestimable service of reflecting the three spires 
as they rise above the great trees which mask the 
Palace and the Deanery. These august abodes edge 



8o ENGLISH HOURS 

the northern side of the slope, and behind their 
huge gate-posts and close-wrought gates the atmo- 
sphere of the Georgian era seems to abide. Before 
them stretches a row of huge elms, which must have 
been old when Johnson was young; and between 
these and the long-buttressed wall of the cathedral, 
you may stroll to and fro among as pleasant a mix- 
ture of influences (I imagine) as any in England. 
You can stand back here, too, from the west front 
further than in many cases, and examine at your 
ease its lavish decoration. You are perhaps a trifle 
too much at your ease, for you soon discover what 
a more cursory glance might not betray, that the 
immense facade has been covered with stucco and 
paint, that an efflgy of Charles II, in wig and 
plumes and trunk-hose, of almost gothic grotesque- 
ness, surmounts the middle window; that the various 
other statues of saints and kings have but recently 
climbed into their niches; and that the whole ex- 
panse is in short an imposture. All this was done 
some fifty years ago, in the taste of that day as to 
restoration, and yet it but partially mitigates the 
impressiveness of the high facade, with its brace of 
spires, and the great embossed and image-fretted 
surface, to which the lowness of the portals (the too 
frequent reproach of English abbeys) seems to give 
a loftier reach. Passing beneath one of these low 
portals, however, I found myself gazing down as 




LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL 



LICHFIELD AND WARWICK 8i 

noble a church vista as any you need desire. The 
cathedral is of magnificent length, and the screen 
between nave and choir has been removed, so that 
from stem to stern, as one may say, of the great ves- 
sel of the church, it is all a mighty avenue of multi- 
tudinous slender columns, terminating in what 
seems a great screen of ruby and sapphire and topaz 
— one of the finest east windows in England. The 
cathedral is narrow in proportion to its length; it is 
the long-drawn aisle of the poet in perfection, and 
there is something grandly elegant in the unity of 
effect produced by this unobstructed perspective. 
The charm is increased by a singular architectural 
fantasy. Standing in the centre of the doorway, you 
perceive that the eastern wall does not directly face 
you, and that from the beginning of the choir the 
receding aisle deflects slightly to the left, in reported 
suggestion of the droop of the Saviour's head on 
the cross. Here again Mr. Gilbert Scott has lately 
laboured to no small purpose of undoing, it would 
appear — undoing the misdeeds of the last century. 
This extraordinary period expended an incalculable 
amount of imagination in proving that it had none. 
Universal whitewash was the least of its offences. 
But this has been scraped away and the solid stone- 
work left to speak for itself, the delicate capitals and 
cornices disencrusted and discreetly rechiselled and 
the whole temple aesthetically rededicated. Its most 



82 ENGLISH HOURS 

beautiful feature, happily, has needed no repair, for 
its perfect beauty has been its safeguard. The great 
choir window of Lichfield is the noblest glasswork 
before the spell of which one's soul has become 
simple. I remember nowhere colours so chaste and 
grave, and yet so rich and true, or a cluster of de- 
signs so piously decorative and yet so vivified. Such 
a window as this seems to me the most sacred orna- 
ment of a great church; to be, not like vault and 
screen and altar, the dim contingent promise to the 
spirit, but the very redemption of the whole vow. 
This Lichfield glass is not the less interesting for 
being visibly of foreign origin. Exceeding so ob- 
viously as it does the range of English genius in this 
line, it indicates at least the heavenly treasure stored 
up in continental churches. It dates from the early 
sixteenth century, and was transferred hither sixty 
years ago from a decayed Belgian abbey. This, 
however, is not all of Lichfield. You have not 
seen it till you have strolled and restrolled along 
the close on every side, and watched the three spires 
constantly change their relation as you move and 
pause. Nothing can well be finer than the combina- 
tion of the two lesser ones soaring equally in front 
with the third riding tremendously the magnificently 
sustained line of the roof. At a certain distance 
against the sky this long ridge seems something in- 
finite and the great spire to sit astride of it like a giant 




THE THREE SPIRES OF LICHFIELD 



LICHFIELD AND WARWICK 83 

mounted on a mastodon. Your sense of the huge 
mass of the building is deepened by the fact that 
though the central steeple is of double the ele- 
vation of the others, you see it, from some points, 
borne back in a perspective which drops it to half 
their stature and hfts them into immensity. But 
it would take long to tell all that one sees and fan- 
cies and thinks in a hngering walk about so great 
a church as this. 

To walk in quest of any object that one has more 
or less tenderly dreamed of, to find your way, to steal 
upon it softly, to see at last, if it be church or castle, 
the tower- tops peeping above elms or beeches — to 
push forward with a rush, and emerge and pause 
and draw that first long breath which is the com- 
promise between so many sensations : this is a pleas- 
ure left to the tourist even after the broad glare of 
photography has dissipated so many of the sweet 
mysteries of travel; even in a season when he is 
fatally apt to meet a dozen fellow pilgrims returning 
from the shrine, each as big a fool, so to speak, as 
he ever was, or to overtake a dozen more telegraph- 
ing their impressions down the line as they arrive. 
Such a pleasure I lately enjoyed quite in its perfec- 
tion, in a walk to Haddon Hall, along a meadow- 
path by the Wye, in this interminable English twi- 
light which I am never weary of admiring watch in 
hand. Haddon Hall lies among Derbyshire hills, in a 



84 ENGLISH HOURS 

region infested, I was about to write, by Americans. 
But I achieved my own sly pilgrimage in perfect soli- 
tude; and as I descried the grey walls among the 
rook-haunted elms I felt not like a dusty tourist, 
but like a successful adventurer. I have certainly 
had, as a dusty tourist, few more charming moments 
than some — such as any one, I suppose, is free to 
have — that I passed on a little ruined grey bridge 
which spans, with its single narrow arch, a trickling 
stream at the base of the eminence from which those 
walls and trees look down. The twilight deepened, 
the ragged battlements and the low, broad oriels 
glanced duskily from the foliage, the rooks wheeled 
and clamoured in the glowing sky ; and if there had 
been a ghost on the premises I certainly ought to 
have seen it. In fact I did see it, as we see ghosts 
nowadays. I felt the incommunicable spirit of the 
scene with the last, the right intensity. The old life, 
the old manners, the old figures seemed present 
again. The great coup de theatre of the young woman 
who shows you the Hall — it is rather languidly 
done on her part — is to point out a little dusky 
door opening from a turret to a back terrace as 
the aperture through which Dorothy Vernon eloped 
with Lord John Manners. I was ignorant of this 
episode, for I was not to enter the place till the mor- 
row, and I am still unversed in the history of the 
actors. But as I stood in the luminous dusk weaving 



LICHFIELD AND WARWICK 85 

the romance of the spot, I recognised the inevit- 
abihty of a Dorothy Vernon and quite understood a 
Lord John. It was of course on just such an evening 
that the romantic event came off, and by Hstening 
with the proper creduHty I might surely hear on the 
flags of the castle- court ghostly footfalls and feel in 
their movement the old heartbeats. The only foot- 
fall I can conscientiously swear to, however, is the 
far from spectral tread of the damsel who led me 
through the mansion in the prosier light of the next 
morning. Haddon Hall, I believe, is one of the 
sights in which it is the fashion to be " disappointed ; ' ' 
a fact explained in a great measure by the absence 
of a formal approach to the house, which shows its 
low, grey front to every trudger on the high-road. 
But the charm of the spot is so much less that of 
grandeur than that of melancholy, that it is rather 
deepened than diminished by this attitude of ob- 
vious survival and decay. And for that matter, when 
you have entered the steep little outer court through 
the huge thickness of the low gateway, the present 
seems effectually walled out and the past walled in, 
even as a dead man in a sepulchre. It is very dead, 
of a fine June morning, the genius of Haddon Hall ; 
and the silent courts and chambers, with their hues 
of ashen grey and faded brown, seem as time- 
bleached as the dry bones of any mouldering mor- 
tality. The comparison is odd, but Haddon Hall 



86 ENGLISH HOURS 

reminded me perversely of some of the larger houses 
at Pompeii. The private life of the past is revealed 
in each case with very much the same distinctness 
and on a scale small enough not to stagger the 
imagination. This old dwelling indeed has so little 
of the mass and expanse of the classic feudal castle 
that it almost suggests one of those miniature models 
of great buildings which lurk in dusty corners of 
museums. But it is large enough to be delectably 
complete and to contain an infinite store of the poetry 
of grass-grown courts looked into by wide, jutting 
windows and climbed out of by crooked stone 
stairways mounting against the walls to little high- 
placed doors. The "tone" of Haddon Hall, of all 
its walls and towers and stonework, is the grey of 
unpolished silver, and the reader who has been in 
England need hardly be reminded of the sweet ac- 
cord — to eye and mind alike — existing between 
all stony surfaces covered with the pale corrosions of 
time and the deep living green of the strong ivy which 
seems to feed on their slow decay. Of this effect and 
of a hundred others — from those that belong to 
low-browed, stone-paved empty rooms where life 
was warm and atmospheres thick, to those one may 
note where the dark tower stairway emerges at last, 
on a level with the highest beech-tops, against the 
cracked and sun-baked parapet which flaunted the 
castle standard over the castle woods — of every 



LICHFIELD AND WARWICK 87 

form of sad desuetude and picturesque decay Had- 
don Hall contains some delightful example. Its fin- 
est point is undoubtedly a certain court from which 
a stately flight of steps ascends to the terrace where 
that daughter of the Vernons whom I have men- 
tioned took such happy thought for our requiring, 
as the phrase is, a reference. These steps, with the 
terrace, its balustrade topped with great ivy-muffled 
knobs of stone and its high background of massed 
woods, form the ideal mise en scene for portions of 
Shakespeare's comedies. '' It 's exactly Elizabethan," 
said my companion. Here the Countess Olivia may 
have hstened to the fantastic ]\Ialvoho, or Beatrix, 
superbest of flirts, have come to summon Benedick 
to dinner. 

The glories of Chatsworth, which lies but a few 
miles from Haddon, serve as a marked offset to its 
more delicate merits, just as they are supposed to 
gain, I beheve, in the tourist's eyes, by contrast with 
its charming, its almost Italian shabbiness. But the 
glories of Chatsworth, incontestable as they are, 
were so effectually echpsed to my mind, a couple of 
days later, that in future, when I think of an English 
mansion, I shall think only of Warwick, and when 
I think of an English park, only of Blenheim. Your 
run by train through the gentle War^vickshire land 
does much to prepare you for the great spectacle 
of the castle, which seems hardlv more than a sort of 



88 ENGLISH HOURS 

massive symbol and synthesis of the broad prosper- 
ity and peace and leisure diffused over this great 
pastoral expanse. The Warwickshire meadows are 
to common English scenery what this is to that of the 
rest of the world. For mile upon mile you can see 
nothing but broad sloping pastures of velvet turf, 
overbrowsed by sheep of the most fantastic shaggi- 
ness and garnished with hedges out of the trailing 
luxury of whose verdure great ivy-tangled oaks and 
elms arise with a kind of architectural regularity. 
The landscape indeed sins by excess of nutritive 
suggestion; it savours of larder and manger; it is 
too ovine, too bovine, it is almost asinine; and if 
you were to believe what you see before you this 
rugged globe would be a sort of boneless ball cov- 
ered with some such plush-like integument as might 
be figured by the down on the cheek of a peach. 
But a great thought keeps you company as you go 
and gives character to the scenery. Warwickshire 
— you say it over and over — was Shakespeare's 
country. Those who think that a great genius is 
something supremely ripe and healthy and human 
may find comfort in the fact. It helps greatly to 
enliven my own vague conception of Shakespeare's 
temperament, with which I find it no great shock 
to be obliged to associate ideas of mutton and beef. 
There is something as final, as disillusioned of the 
romantic horrors of rock and forest, as deeply at- 




WARWICK CASTLE 



LICHFIELD AND WARWICK 89 

tuned to human needs in the Warwickshire pastures 
as there is in the underlying morahty of the poet. 

With human needs in general Warwick Castle 
may be in no great accord, but few places are more 
gratifying to the sentimental tourist. It is the only 
great residence he may have coveted as a home. The 
fire that we heard so much of last winter in America 
appears to have consumed but an inconsiderable 
and easily spared portion of the house, and the great 
towers rise over the great trees and the town with the 
same grand air as before. Picturesquely, Warwick 
gains from not being sequestered, after the common 
fashion, in acres of park. The village street winds 
about the garden walls, though its hum expires be- 
fore it has had time to scale them. There can be no 
better example of the way in which stone walls, if 
they do not of necessity make a prison, may on oc- 
casions make a palace, than the prodigious privacy 
maintained thus about a mansion whose windows 
and towers form the main feature of a bustling 
town. At Warwick the past joins hands so stoutly 
with the present that you can hardly say where one 
begins and the other ends, and you rather miss the 
various crannies and gaps of what I just now called 
the Italian shabbiness of Haddon. There is a Caesar's 
tower and a Guy's tower and half a dozen more, but 
they are so well- conditioned in their ponderous anti- 
quity that you are at loss whether to consider them 



90 ENGLISH HOURS 

parts of an old house revived or of a new house pic- 
turesquely superannuated. Such as they are, how- 
ever, plunging into the grassed and gravelled courts 
from which their battlements look really feudal, and 
into gardens large enough for all delight and too 
small, as they should be, to be amazing; and with 
ranges between them of great apartments at whose 
hugely recessed windows you may turn from Van- 
dyck and Rembrandt to glance down the cliff-like 
pile into the Avon, washing the base like a lordly 
moat, with its bridge, and its trees and its memo- 
ries, they mark the very model of a great hereditary 
dwelling — one which amply satisfies the imagina- 
tion without irritating the democratic conscience. 
The pictures at Warwick reminded me afresh of an 
old conclusion on this matter; that the best fortune 
for good pictures is not to be crowded into public 
collections — not even into the relative privacy of 
Salons Carres and Tribunes — but to hang in largely- 
spaced half-dozens on the walls of fine houses. 
Here the historical atmosphere, as one may call it, 
is almost a compensation for the often imperfect 
light. If this be true of most pictures it is especially 
so of the works of Vandyck, whom you think of, 
wherever you may find him, as having, with that 
thorough good-breeding which is the stamp of his 
manner, taken account in his painting of the local 
conditions and predestined his picture to just the 



LICHFIELD AND WARWICK 91 

spot where it hangs. This is in fact an illusion as 
regards the Vandycks at Warwick, for none of them 
represent members of the house. The very finest 
perhaps after the great melancholy, picturesque 
Charles I — death, or at least the presentiment of 
death on the pale horse — is a portrait from the 
Brignole palace at Genoa; a beautiful noble matron 
in black, with her little son and heir. The last 
Vandycks I had seen were the noble company this 
lady had left behind her in the Genoese palace, and 
as I looked at her I thought of her mighty change 
of circumstance. Here she sits in the mild light of 
midmost England ; there you could almost fancy her 
bhnking in the great glare sent up from the Medi- 
terranean. Intensity for intensity — intensity of sit- 
uation constituted — I hardly know which to choose. 

Oxford, 1872. 





NORTH DEVON 



F^OR those fanciful observers to whom broad 
England means chiefly the perfection of the 
rural picturesque, Devonshire means the perfection 
of England. I, at least, had so complacently taken 
for granted here all the characteristic graces of 
Enghsh scenery, had built so boldly on their rank 
orthodoxy, that before we fairly crossed the border 
I had begun to look impatiently from the carriage 
window for the veritable landscape in water-colours. 
Devonshire meets you promptly in all its purity, for 
the course of ten minutes you have been able to 



94 ENGLISH HOURS 

glance down the green vista of a dozen Devonshire 
lanes. On huge embankments of moss and turf, 
smothered in wild flowers and embroidered with the 
finest lacework of trailing ground-ivy, rise solid 
walls of flowering thorn and glistening holly and 
golden broom, and more strong, homely shrubs 
than I can name, and toss their blooming tangle to 
a sky which seems to look down between them, in 
places, from but a dozen inches of blue. They are 
oversown with lovely little flowers with names as 
delicate as their petals of gold and silver and azure 

— bird's-eye and king's-finger and wandering-sailor 

— and their soil, a superb dark red, turns in spots 
so nearly to crimson that you almost fancy it some 
fantastic compound purchased at the chemist's and 
scattered there for ornament. The mingled reflection 
of this rich-hued earth and the dim green Hght which 
filters through the hedge is a masterpiece of produced 
beauty. A Devonshire cottage is no less striking an 
outcome of the ages and the seasons and the manners. 
Crushed beneath its burden of thatch, coated with 
a rough white stucco of a tone to delight a painter, 
nestling in deep foliage and garnished at doorstep 
and wayside with various forms of chubby infancy, it 
seems to have been stationed there for no more obvi- 
ous purpose than to keep a promise to your fancy, 
though it covers, I suppose, not a Kttle of the sordid 
side of Hfe which the fancy hkes to slur over. 




A DEVONSHIRE LANE 



NORTH DEVON 95 

I rolled past lanes and cottages to Exeter, where 
I had counted upon the cathedral. When one has 
fairly tasted of the pleasure of cathedral-hunting 
the approach to each new possible prize of the chase 
gives a peculiarly agreeable zest to the curiosity. 
You are making a collection of great impressions, 
and I think the process is in no case so delightful as 
applied to cathedrals. Going from one fine picture 
to another is certainly good ; but the fine pictures 
of the world are terribly numerous, and they have 
a troublesome way of crowding and jostling each 
other in the memory. The number of cathedrals is 
small, and the mass and presence of each specimen 
great, so that as they rise in the mind in individual 
majesty they dwarf all the commoner impressions of 
calculated effect. They form indeed but a gallery 
of vaster pictures; for when time has dulled the 
recollection of details you retain a single broad 
image of the vast grey edifice, with its head and 
shoulders, its vessel and its towers, its tone of colour, 
its still green precinct. All this is especially true 
perhaps of one's sense of Enghsh sacred piles, 
which are almost alone in possessing, as pictures, 
a spacious and harmonious setting. The cathedral 
stands supreme, but the close makes, always, the 
scene. Exeter is not one of the grandest, but, in com- 
mon with great and small, it has certain points in 
favour of which local learning discriminates. Exe- 



96 ENGLISH HOURS 

ter indeed does itself injustice by a low, dark front, 
which not only diminishes the apparent altitude 
of the nave, but conceals, as you look eastward, two 
noble Norman towers. The front, however, which 
has a gloomy impressiveness, is redeemed by two 
fine features: a magnificent rose- window, whose 
vast stone ribs (enclosing some very palhd last- 
century glass) are disposed with the most charming 
intricacy ; and a long sculptured screen — a sort 
of stony band of images — which traverses the 
facade from side to side. The little broken- visaged 
efiigies of saints and kings and bishops, niched in 
tiers along this hoary wall, are prodigiously black 
and quaint and primitive in expression; and as you 
look at them with whatever contemplative tender- 
ness your trade of hard-working tourist may have 
left at your disposal, you fancy that they are brood- 
ingly conscious of their names, histories, and mis- 
fortunes; that, sensitive victims of time, they feel 
the loss of their noses, their toes, and their crowns; 
and that, when the long June twilight turns at last 
to a deeper grey and the quiet of the close to a deeper 
stillness, they begin to peer sidewise out of their 
narrow recesses and to converse in some strange 
form of early English, as rigid, yet as candid, as 
their features and postures, moaning, like a com- 
pany of ancient paupers round a hospital fire, over 
their aches and infirmities and losses and the sadness 



NORTH DEVON 97 

of being so terribly old. The vast square transeptal 
towers of the church seem to me to have the same 
sort of personal melancholy. Nothing in all archi- 
tecture expresses better, to my imagination, the sad- 
ness of survival, the resignation of dogged material 
continuance, than a broad expanse of Norman 
stonework, roughly adorned with its low relief of 
short columns and round arches and almost bar- 
barous hatchet- work, and hfted high into that mild 
Enghsh Hght which accords so well with its dull- 
grey surface. The especial secret of the impressive- 
ness of such a Norman tower I cannot pretend to 
have discovered. It lies largely in the look of having 
been proudly and sturdily built — as if the masons 
had been urged by a trumpet-blast, and the stones 
squared by a battle-axe — contrasted with this mere 
idleness of antiquity and passive lapse into quaint- 
ness. A Greek temple preserves a kind of fresh 
immortahty in its concentrated refinement, and a 
gothic cathedral in its adventurous exuberance; 
but a Norman tower stands up hke some simple 
strong man in his might, bending a melancholy 
brow upon an age which demands that strength 
shall be cunning. 

The North Devon coast, whither it was my design 
on coming to Exeter to proceed, has the primary 
merit of being, as yet, virgin soil as to railways. I 
went accordingly from Barnstable to Ilfracombe on 



98 ENGLISH HOURS 

the top of a coach, in the fashion of elder days; and, 
thanks to my position, I managed to enjoy the land- 
scape in spite of the two worthy aboriginals before 
me who were reading aloud together, with a natural 
glee which might have passed for fiendish malice, 
the ''Daily Telegraph's" painfully vivid account 
of the defeat of the Atalanta crew. It seemed to me, 
I remember, a sort of pledge and token of the in- 
vincibility of English muscle that a newspaper record 
of its prowess should have power to divert my com- 
panions' eyes from the bosky flanks of Devonshire 
combes. The little watering-place of Ilfracombe is 
seated at the lower verge of one of these seaward- 
plunging valleys, between a couple of magnificent 
headlands which hold it in a hollow slope and offer 
it securely to the caress of the Bristol Channel. It 
is a very finished little specimen of its genus, and 
I think that during my short stay there I expended 
as much attention on its manners and customs and 
its social physiognomy as on its cHffs and beach 
and great coast- view. My chief conclusion perhaps, 
from all these things, was that the terrible ''sum- 
mer-question" which works annual anguish in so 
many American households would rage less hope- 
lessly if we had a few Ilfracombes scattered along 
our Atlantic coast; and furthermore that the Eng- 
lish are masters of the art of not losing sight of ease 
and convenience in the pursuit of the pastoral life — 




THE NORMAN TOWERS OF EXETER 



NORTH DEVON 99 

unlike our own people, who, when seeking rural be- 
guilement, are apt but to find a new rudeness added 
to nature. It is just possible that at Ilfracombe ease 
and convenience weigh down the scale; so very 
substantial are they, so very officious and business- 
Hke. On the left of the town (to give an example) 
one of the great cliffs I have mentioned rises in a 
couple of massive peaks and presents to the sea an 
almost vertical face, all muffled in tufts of golden 
broom and mighty fern. You have not walked fifty 
yards away from the hotel before you encounter 
half a dozen little sign-boards, directing your steps 
to a path up the cliff. You follow their indications 
and you arrive at a little gate-house, with photo- 
graphs and various local gimcracks exposed for 
sale. A most respectable person appears, demands 
a penny and, on receiving it, admits you with great 
civility to commune with nature. You detect, how- 
ever, various Httle influences hostile to perfect com- 
munion. You are greeted by another sign-board 
threatening legal pursuit if you attempt to evade 
the payment of the sacramental penny. The path, 
winding in a hundred ramifications over the clifT, 
is fastidiously solid and neat, and furnished at inter- 
vals of a dozen yards with excellent benches, in- 
scribed by knife and pencil with the names of such 
visitors as do not happen to have been the elderly 
maiden ladies who now chiefly occupy them. All 



loo ENGLISH HOURS 

this is prosaic, and you have to subtract it in a lump 
from the total impression before the sense of the 
beguilement of nature becomes distinct. Your 
subtraction made, a great deal assuredly remains; 
quite enough, I found, to give me an ample day's 
refreshment; for English scenery, like most other 
English commodities, resists and rewards famihar 
use. The chffs are superb, the play of light and 
shade upon them is a perpetual study, and the air 
a particular mixture of the breath of the hills and 
moors and the breath of the sea. I was very glad, 
at the end of my climb, to have a good bench to sit 
upon — as one must think twice in England before 
measuring one's length on the grassy earth; and to 
be able, thanks to the smooth foot-path, to get back 
to the hotel in a quarter of an hour. But it occurred 
to me that if I were an Englishman of the period, 
and, after ten months of a busy London life, my 
fancy were turning to a holiday, to rest and change 
and oblivion of the ponderous social burden, it 
might find rather less inspiration than needful in 
a vision of the little paths of Ilfracombe, of the sign- 
boards and the penny-fee and the solitude tempered 
by old ladies and sheep. I wondered whether 
change perfect enough to be salutary does not imply 
something more pathless, more idle, more unre- 
claimed from that deep- bosomed nature to which 
the overwrought mind reverts with passionate long- 



NORTH DEVON loi 

ing; something after all attainable at a moderate 
distance from New York and Boston. I must add 
that I cannot find in my heart to object, even on 
grounds the most aesthetic, to the very beautiful and 
excellent inn at Ilfracombe, v^here such of my 
readers as are perchance actually wrestling with the 
question of "where to go" may be interested to 
learn that they may live en pension, very well in- 
deed, at a cost of ten shillings a day. I have paid 
the American hotel-clerk a much heavier tax on a 
much lighter entertainment. I made the acquaint- 
ance at this establishment of that strange fruit of 
time the insular table d'hote, but I confess that, 
faithful to the habit of a tourist open to the arriere- 
pensee, I have retained a more vivid impression of 
the talk and the faces than of our joints and side- 
dishes. I noticed here what I have often noticed 
before (the truth perhaps has never been duly re- 
cognised), that no people profit so eagerly as the 
English by the suspension of a common social law. 
A table d'hote, being something abnormal and 
experimental, as it were, resulted apparently in 
a complete reversal of the supposed national charac- 
teristics. Conversation was universal — uproarious 
almost; old legends and ironies about the insular 
morgue seemed to see their ground crumble away. 
What social, what psychologic earthquake, in our 
own time, had occurred ? 



I02 ENGLISH HOURS 

These are meagre memories, however, compared 
with those which cluster about that place of pleasant- 
ness which is locally known as Lynton. I am afraid 
I may seem a mere professional gusher when I 
declare how common almost any term appears to 
me applied to Lynton with descriptive intent. The 
little village is perched on the side of one of the 
great mountain- cliffs with which this whole coast is 
adorned, and on the edge of a lovely gorge through 
which a broad hill-torrent foams and tumbles from 
the great moors whose heather-crested waves rise 
purple along the inland sky. Below it, close beside 
the beach where the httle torrent meets the sea, is the 
sister village of Lynmouth. Here — as I stood on the 
bridge that spans the stream and looked at the stony 
backs and foundations and overclambering garden 
verdure of certain Httle grey old houses which 
plunge their feet into it, and then up at the tender 
green of scrub-oak and fern, at the colour of gorse 
and broom and bracken climbing the sides of the 
hills and leaving them bare-crowned to the sun like 
miniature mountains — I read an unnatural blue- 
ness into the northern sea, and the village below 
put on the grace of one of the hundred hamlets of 
the Riviera. The little Castle Hotel at Lynton is 
a spot so consecrated to supreme repose — to sitting 
with a book in the terrace-garden, among blooming 
plants of aristocratic magnitude and rarity, and 



NORTH DEVON 103 

watching the finest piece of colour in all nature, the 
glowing red and green of the great cHffs beyond the 
little harbour-mouth, as they shift and change and 
melt, the livelong day, from shade to shade and 
ineffable tone to tone — that I feel as if in helping 
it to publicity I were doing it rather a disfavour than 
a service. It is in fact a very deep and sure retreat, 
and I have never known one where purchased hos- 
pitality wore a more disinterested smile. Lynton 
is of course a capital centre for excursions, but two 
or three of which I had time to make. None is more 
beautiful than a simple walk along the running 
face of the cliffs to a singular rocky eminence whose 
curious abutments and pinnacles of stone have 
inevitably caused it to be named the Castle. It 
has a fantastic resemblance to some hoary feudal 
ruin, with crumbling towers and gaping chambers 
tenanted by wild sea-birds. The late afternoon light 
had a way, at this season, of hngering on until 
within a couple of hours of midnight; and I remem- 
ber among the charmed moments of English travel 
none of a more vividly poetical tinge than a couple of 
evenings spent on the summit of this all but legend- 
ary pile in company with the slow-coming dark- 
ness and the short, sharp cry of the sea-mews. 
There are places whose very aspect is a story or 
a song. This jagged and pinnacled coast-wall, with 
the rock-strewn valley behind it, the sullen calmness 



I04 ENGLISH HOURS 

of the unbroken tide at the dreadful base of the 
cHffs (where they divide into low sea-caves, making 
pillars and pedestals for the fantastic imagery of 
their summits), prompted one to wanton reminis- 
cence and outbreak, to a recall of some drawing 
of Gustave Dore's (of his good time), which was 
a divination of the place and made one look for his 
signature under a stone, or, better still, to respouting, 
for sympathy and relief, some idyllic Tennysonian 
line that had haunted one's destitute past and that 
seemed to speak of the conditions in spite of being 
false to them geographically. 

The last stage in my visit to North Devon was the 
long drive along the beautiful remnant of coast and 
through the rich pastoral scenery of Somerset. The 
whole broad spectacle that one dreams of viewing in 
a foreign land to the homely music of a postboy's 
whip I beheld on this admirable drive — breezy 
highlands clad in the warm blue-brown of heather- 
tufts as if in mantles of rusty velvet, little bays and 
coves curving gently to the doors of clustered fishing- 
huts, deep pastures and broad forests, villages 
thatched and trellised as if to take a prize for im- 
probability, manor-tops peeping over rook-haunted 
avenues. I ought to make especial note of an hour 
I spent at midday at the little village of Porlock 
in Somerset. Here the thatch seemed steeper and 
heavier, the yellow roses on the cottage walls more 



NORTH DEVON 



105 



cunningly mated with the crumbhng stucco, the 
dark interiors within the open doors more quaintly 
pictorial, than elsewhere; and as I loitered, while 
the horses rested, in the little cool old timber- 
steepled, yew-shaded church, betwixt the high- 
backed manorial pew and the battered tomb of a 
crusading knight and his lady, and hstened to the 
simple prattle of a blue-eyed old sexton, who showed 
me where, as a boy, in scantier corduroys, he had 
scratched his name on the recumbent lady's breast, 
it seemed to me that this at last was old England 
indeed, and that in a moment more I should see 
Sir Roger de Coverley marching up the aisle. Cer- 
tainly, to give a proper account of it all, I should 
need nothing less than the pen of Mr. Addison. 

1872. 





WELLS AND SALISBURY 



THE pleasantest thing in life is doubtless ever 
the pleasantness that has found one off one's 
guard — though if I was off my guard in arriving 
at Wells it could only have been by the effect of a 
frivolous want of information. I knew in a general 
way that this ancient little town had a great cathe- 
dral to produce, but I was far from suspecting the 
intensity of the impression that awaited me. The 
immense predominance of the Minster towers, as 
you see them from the approaching train over the 
clustered houses at their feet, gives you indeed an 



io8 ENGLISH HOURS 

intimation of its character, suggests that the city is 
nothing if not sanctified; but I can wish the traveller 
no better fortune than to stroll forth in the early 
evening with as large a reserve of ignorance as my 
own, and treat himself to an hour of discoveries. 
I was lodged on the edge of the Cathedral lawn and 
had only to pass beneath one of the three crumb- 
ling Priory gates which enclose it, and cross the 
vast grassy oval, to stand before a minster-front 
which ranks among the first three or four in Eng- 
land. Wells Cathedral is extremely fortunate in 
being approached by this wide green level, on which 
the spectator may loiter and stroll to and fro and 
shift his standpoint to his heart's content. The spec- 
tator who does not hesitate to avail himself of his 
privilege of unlimited fastidiousness might indeed 
pronounce it too isolated for perfect picturesqueness 
— too uncontrasted with the profane architecture 
of the human homes for which it pleads to the 
skies. But Wells is in fact not a city with a cathe- 
dral for central feature; it is a cathedral with a 
little city gathered at the base and forming hardly 
more than an extension of the spacious close. You 
feel everywhere the presence of the beautiful church ; 
the place seems always to savour of a Sunday after- 
noon; and you imagine every house tenanted by 
a canon, a prebendary, or a precentor, with "backs " 
providing for choristers and vergers. 



WELLS AND SALISBURY 109 

The great facade is remarkable not so much for 
its expanse as for its elaborate elegance. It consists 
of two great truncated towers, divided by a broad 
centre bearing, beside its rich fretwork of statues, 
three narrow lancet windows. The statues on this 
vast front are the great boast of the cathedral. They 
number, with the lateral figures of the towers, no 
less than three hundred; it seems densely embroid- 
ered by the chisel. They are disposed, in successive 
niches, along six main vertical shafts; the central 
windows are framed and divided by narrower shafts, 
and the wall above them rises into a pinnacled screen 
traversed by two superb horizontal rows. Add to 
these a close-running cornice of images along the 
line corresponding with the summit of the aisles and 
the tiers which complete the decoration of the towers 
on either side, and you have an immense system of 
images governed by a quaint theological order and 
most impressive in its completeness. Many of the 
little high-lodged effigies are mutilated, and not 
a few of the niches are empty, but the injury of time 
is not sufficient to diminish the noble serenity of the 
building. The injury of time is indeed being act- 
ively repaired, for the front is partly masked by 
a slender scaffolding. The props and platforms are 
of the most delicate structure, and look in fact as if 
they were meant to facilitate no more ponderous 
labour than a fitting-on of noses to disfeatured 



no ENGLISH HOURS 

bishops and a rearrangement of the mantle- folds of 
strait-laced queens discomposed by the centuries. 
The main beauty of Wells Cathedral, to my mind, 
is not its more or less visible wealth of detail, but its 
singularly charming tone of colour. An even, sober, 
mouse-like grey invests it from summit to base, 
deepening nowhere to the melancholy black of your 
truly romantic gothic, but showing as yet none 
of the spotty brightness of renovation. It is a won- 
derful fact that the great towers, from their lofty 
outlook, see never a factory chimney — those cloud- 
compelling spires which so often break the charm 
of the softest English horizons; and the general 
atmosphere of Wells seemed to me, for some reason, 
peculiarly luminous and sweet. The cathedral has 
never been discoloured by the moral malaria of a city 
with an independent secular life. As you turn back 
from its portal and glance at the open lawn before 
it, edged by the mild grey seventeenth-century 
deanery and the other dwellings, hardly less stately, 
which seem to reflect in their comfortable fronts the 
rich respectability of the church, and then up again 
at the beautiful clear-hued pile, you may fancy it 
less a temple for man's needs than a monument of 
his pride — less a fold for the flock than for the 
shepherds; a visible token that, besides the actual 
assortment of heavenly thrones, there is constantly 
on hand a "full line" of cushioned cathedral stalls. 



WELLS AND SALISBURY iii 

Within the cathedral this impression is not dimin- 
ished. The interior is vast and massive, but it lacks 
incident — the incident of monuments, sepulchres, 
and chapels — and it is too brilliantly lighted for 
picturesque, as distinguished from strictly architect- 
ural, interest. Under this latter head it has, I be- 
lieve, great importance. For myself, I can think of 
it only as I saw it from my place in the choir during 
afternoon service of a hot Sunday. The Bishop 
sat facing me, enthroned in a stately gothic alcove 
and clad in his crimson band, his lawn sleeves and 
his lavender gloves; the canons, in their degree, with 
still other priestly forms, reclined comfortably in the 
carven stalls, and the scanty congregation fringed 
the broad aisle. But though scanty, the congrega- 
tion was select; it was unexceptionably black- 
coated, bonneted and gloved. It savoured intensely 
in short of that inexorable gentility which the Eng- 
lish put on with their Sunday bonnets and beavers, 
and which fills me — as a mere taster of produced 
tastes — with a sort of fond reactionary remem- 
brance of those animated bundles of rags which one 
sees kneehng in the churches of Italy. But even 
here, as taster of tastes, I found my account. You 
always do if you throw yourself confidently enough, 
in England, on the chapter of accidents. Before me 
and beside me sat a row of the comeliest young men, 
clad in black gowns and wearing on their shoulders 



112 ENGLISH HOURS 

long hoods trimmed with white fur. Who and what 
they were I know not, for I preferred not to learn, 
lest by chance they should not be so mediaeval as 
they looked. 

My fancy found its account even better in the 
singular quaintness of the httle precinct known as 
the Vicars' Close. It directly adjoins the Cathedral 
Green, and you enter it beneath one of the solid old 
gate-houses which form so striking an element in 
the ecclesiastical furniture of Wells. It consists of 
a narrow, oblong court, bordered on each side with 
thirteen small dwellings and terminating in a ruinous 
little chapel. Here formerly dwelt a congregation of 
minor priests, established in the thirteenth century 
to do curates' work for the canons. The little houses 
are very much modernised; but they retain their 
tall chimneys, with carven tablets in the face, their 
antique compactness and neatness, and a certain 
little sanctified air as of cells in a cloister. The place 
is adorably of another world and time, and, ap- 
proaching it as I did in the first dimness of twilight, 
it looked to me, in its exaggerated perspective, like 
one of those conventional streets represented on the 
stage, down whose impossible vista the heroes and 
confidants of romantic comedies come swaggering 
arm-in-arm and hold amorous converse with hero- 
ines perched at second-story windows. But though 
the Vicars' Close is a curious affair enough, the 




THE MARKET-PLACE, WELLS 



WELLS AND SALISBURY 113 

great boast of Wells is its episcopal Palace. The 
Palace loses nothing from being seen for the first 
time in the kindly twilight, and from being ap- 
proached with an uncautioned mind. To reach it 
(unless you go from within the cathedral by the 
cloisters), you pass out of the Green by another 
ancient gateway into the market-place, and thence 
back again through its own peculiar portal. My own 
first glimpse of it had all the felicity of a coup de 
theatre. I saw within the dark archway an enclosure 
bedimmed at once with the shadows of trees and 
heightened with the glitter of water. The picture 
was worthy of this agreeable promise. Its main 
feature is the little grey-walled island on which the 
Palace stands, rising in feudal fashion out of a 
broad, clear moat, flanked with round towers and 
approached by a proper drawbridge. Along the 
outer side of the moat is a short walk beneath a row 
of picturesquely stunted elms ; swans and ducks dis- 
port themselves in the current and ripple the bright 
shadows of the overclambering plants from the epis- 
copal gardens and masses of wall-flower lodged on 
the hoary battlements. On the evening of my visit 
the haymakers were at work on a great sloping field 
in the rear of the Palace, and the sweet perfume of 
the tumbled grass in the dusky air seemed all that 
was wanting to fix the scene for ever in the memory. 
Beyond the moat and within the grey walls dwells 



114 ENGLISH HOURS 

my lord Bishop, in the finest seat of all his order. 
The mansion dates from the thirteenth century ; but, 
stately dwelling though it is, it occupies but a sub- 
ordinate place in its own grounds. Their great orna- 
ment, picturesquely speaking, is the massive ruin 
of a banqueting-hall erected by a free-living medi- 
aeval bishop and more or less demolished at the 
Reformation. With its still perfect towers and beau- 
tiful shapely windows, hung with those green tapes- 
tries so stoutly woven by the English climate, it is 
a relic worthy of being locked away behind an 
embattled wall. I have among my impressions of 
Wells, besides this picture of the moated Palace, 
half a dozen memories of the romantic sort, which 
I lack space to transcribe. The clearest impression 
perhaps is that of the beautiful church of St. Cuth- 
bert, of the same date as the cathedral, and in very 
much the same style of elegant, temperate early 
English. It wears one of the high-soaring towers for 
which Somersetshire is justly celebrated, as you may 
see from the window of the train in rolling past its 
almost topheavy hamlets. The beautiful old church, 
surrounded with its green graveyard, and large 
enough to be impressive, without being too large 
(a great merit, to my sense) to be easily compassed 
by a deplorably unarchitectural eye, wore a native 
English expression to which certain humble figures 
in the foreground gave additional point. On the 



WELLS AND SALISBURY 115 

edge of the churchyard was a low-gabled house, 
before which four old men were gossiping in the 
eventide. Into the front of the house was inserted 
an antique alcove in stone, divided into three shallow 
Httle seats, two of which wxre occupied by extraor- 
dinary specimens of decrepitude. One of these 
ancient paupers had a huge protuberant forehead, 
and sat with a pensive air, his head gathered pain- 
fully upon his twisted shoulders and his legs resting 
across his crutch. The other was rubicund, blear- 
eyed, and frightfully besmeared with snuff. Their 
voices were so feeble and senile that I could scarcely 
understand them, and only just managed to make 
out the answer to my enquiry of who and what they 
were — "We 're Still's Almhouse, sir." 

One of the lions, almost, of Wells (whence it is but 
five miles distant) is the ruin of the famous Abbey of 
Glastonbury, on which Henry VIII, in the language 
of our day, came down so heavily. The ancient splen- 
dour of the architecture survives but in scattered and 
scanty fragments, among influences of a rather inhar- 
monious sort. It was cattle-market in the little town 
as I passed up the main street, and a savour of hoofs 
and hide seemed to accompany me through the easy 
labyrinth of the old arches and piers. These occupy 
a large back yard, close behind the street, to which 
you are most prosaically admitted by a young woman 
who keeps a wicket and sells tickets. The continuity 



ii6 ENGLISH HOURS 

of tradition is not altogether broken, however, for 
the Httle street of Glastonbury has rather an old- 
time aspect, and one of the houses at least must have 
seen the last of the abbots ride abroad on his mule. 
The little inn is a capital bit of character, and as 
I waited for the 'bus under its low dark archway (in 
something of the mood, possibly, in which a train 
was once waited for at Coventry), and watched 
the barmaid flirting her way to and fro out of the 
heavy-browed kitchen and among the lounging 
young appraisers of colts and steers and barmaids, 
I might have imagined that the merry England of 
the Tudors had not utterly passed away. A beau- 
tiful England this must have been as well, if it con- 
tained many such abbeys as Glastonbury. Such of 
the ruined columns and portals and windows as still 
remain are of admirable design and finish. The 
doorways are rich in marginal ornament — orna- 
ment within ornament, as it often is ; for the dainty 
weeds and wild flowers overlace the antique tracery 
with their bright arabesques and deepen the grey 
of the stonework as it brightens their bloom. The 
thousand flowers which grow among English ruins 
deserve a chapter to themselves. I owe them, as an 
observer, a heavy debt of satisfaction, but I am too 
little of a botanist to pay them in their own coin. It 
has often seemed to me in England that the purest 
enjoyment of architecture was to be had among the 




SALISBURY CATHEDRAL 



i 



WELLS AND SALISBURY 117 

ruins of great buildings. In the perfect building one 
is rarely sure that the impression is simply archi- 
tectural: it is more or less pictorial and romantic; 
it depends partly upon association and partly upon 
various accessories and details which, however they 
may be wrought into harmony with the architectural 
idea, are not part of its essence and spirit. But in so 
far as beauty of structure is beauty of line and curve, 
balance and harmony of masses and dimensions, 
I have seldom relished it as deeply as on the grassy 
nave of some crumbling church, before lonely col- 
umns and empty windows where the wild flowers 
were a cornice and the sailing clouds a roof. The 
arts certainly hang together in what they do for us. 
These hoary relics of Glastonbury reminded me in 
their broken eloquence of one of the other great 
ruins of the world — the Last Supper of Leonardo. 
A beautiful shadow, in each case, is all that remains; 
but that shadow is the soul of the artist. 

Salisbury Cathedral, to which I made a pilgrim- 
age on leaving Wells, is the very reverse of a ruin, 
and you take your pleasure there on very different 
grounds from those I have just attempted to define. 
It is perhaps the best-known typical church in 
the world, thanks to its shapely spire ; but the spire 
is so simply and obviously fair that when you have 
respectfully made a note of it you have anticipated 
aesthetic analysis. I had seen it before and admired 



ii8 ENGLISH HOURS 

it heartily, and perhaps I should have done as well 
to let my admiration rest. I confess that on repeated 
inspection it grew to seem to me the least bit banal, 
or even bete, since I am talking French, and I began 
to consider whether it does not belong to the same 
range of art as the Apollo Belvedere or the Venus 
de' Medici. I am inclined to think that if I had to 
live within sight of a cathedral and encounter it in 
my daily comings and goings, I should grow less 
weary of the rugged black front of Exeter than of the 
sweet perfection of Sahsbury. There are people by 
temperament easily sated with beauties specifically 
fair, and the effect of Salisbury Cathedral architect- 
urally is equivalent to that of flaxen hair and blue 
eyes physiognomically. The other lions of Salisbury, 
Stonehenge and Wilton House, I revisited with un- 
diminished interest. Stonehenge is rather a hack- 
neyed shrine of pilgrimage. At the time of my former 
visit a picnic-party was making libations of beer on 
the dreadful altar-sites. But the mighty mystery of 
the place has not yet been stared out of countenance ; 
and as on this occasion there were no picnickers we 
were left to drink deep of all its ambiguities and 
intensities. It stands as lonely in history as it does 
on the great plain whose many-tinted green waves, 
as they roll away from it, seem to symbolise the ebb 
of the long centuries which have left it so portent- 
ously unexplained. You may put a hundred ques- 



WELLS AND SALISBURY 119 

tions to these rough-hewn giants as they bend in 
grim contemplation of their fallen companions; but 
your curiosity falls dead in the vast sunny stillness 
that enshrouds them, and the strange monument, 
with all its unspoken memories, becomes simply 
a heart-stirring picture in a land of pictures. It is 
indeed immensely vague and immensely deep. At 
a distance you see it standing in a shallow dell of the 
plain, looking hardly larger than a group of ten-pins 
on a bowling-green. I can fancy sitting all a sum- 
mer's day watching its shadows shorten and lengthen 
again, and drawing a delicious contrast between the 
world's duration and the feeble span of individual 
experience. There is something in Stonehenge al- 
most reassuring to the nerves; if you are disposed to 
feel that the life of man has rather a thin surface, 
and that we soon get to the bottom of things, the 
immemorial grey pillars may serve to represent for 
you the pathless vaults beneath the house of history. 
Salisbury is indeed rich in antiquities. Wilton House, 
a delightful old residence of the Earls of Pembroke, 
contains a noble collection of Greek and Roman 
marbles. These are ranged round a charming clois- 
ter occupying the centre of the house, which is 
exhibited in the most liberal fashion. Out of the 
cloister opens a series of drawing-rooms hung with 
family portraits, chiefly by Vandyck, all of super- 
lative merit. Among them hangs supreme, as the 



I20 



ENGLISH HOURS 



Vandyck par excellence, the famous and magnificent 
group of the whole Pembroke family of James the 
First's time. This splendid work has every pictorial 
merit — design, colour, elegance, force, and finish, 
and I have been vainly wondering to this hour Vv^hat 
it needs to be the finest piece of portraiture, as it 
surely is one of the most ambitious, in the world. 
What it lacks, characteristically, in a certain un- 
compromising veracity, it recovers in the beautiful 
dignity of its position — unmoved from the stately 
house in which its author sojourned and wrought, 

famihar to the descendants of its noble originals. 

1872. 





AN ENGLISH EASTER 



IT may be said of the English, as is said of the 
council of war in Sheridan's farce of *' The 
Critic " by one of the spectators of the rehearsal, 
that when they do agree, their unanimity is wonder- 
ful. They differ among themselves greatly just now 
as regards the machinations of Russia, the derehc- 
tions of Turkey, the merits of the Reverend Arthur 
Tooth, the genius of Mr. Henry Irving, and a good 
many other matters; but neither just now nor at 
any other time do they fail to conform to those social 



122 ENGLISH HOURS 

observances on which respectabihty has set her seal. 
England is a country of curious anomalies, and this 
has much to do with her being so interesting to for- 
eign observers. The national, the individual charac- 
ter is very positive, very independent, very much 
made up according to its own sentiment of things, 
very prone to startling eccentricities; and yet at the 
same time it has beyond any other this peculiar 
gift of squaring itself with fashion and custom. In 
no other country, I imagine, are so many people to 
be found doing the same thing in the same way at 
the same time — using the same slang, wearing the 
same hats and neckties, collecting the same china- 
plates, playing the same game of lawn-tennis or of 
polo, admiring the same professional beauty. The 
monotony of such a spectacle would soon become 
oppressive if the foreign observer were not con- 

, scious of this latent capacity in the performers for 
great freedom of action; he finds a good deal of enter- 
tainment in wondering how they reconcile the tra- 
ditional insularity of the private person with this per- 

I petual tribute to usage. Of course in all civilised 
societies the tribute to usage is constantly paid; if 
it is less apparent in America than elsewhere the 
reason is not, I think, because individual independ- 
ence is greater, but because usage is more sparsely 
established. Where custom can be ascertained peo- 
ple certainly follow it ; but for one definite precedent 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 123 

in American life there are fifty in English. I am 
very far from having discovered the secret; I have 
not in the least learned what becomes of that 
explosive personal force in the English character 
which is compressed and corked down by social 
conformity. I look with a certain awe at some of 
the manifestations of the conforming spirit, but the 
fermenting idiosyncrasies beneath it are hidden from 
my vision. The most striking example, to foreign 
eyes, of the power of custom in England is cer- 
tainly the universal church-going. In the sight of 
the English people getting up from its tea and toast 
of a Sunday morning and brushing its hat, and 
drawing on its gloves, and taking its wife on its arm, 
and making its offspring march before, and so, for 
decency's, respectability's, propriety's sake, wend- 
ing its way to a place of worship appointed by the 
State, in which it repeats the formulas of a creed to 
which it attaches no positive sense and hstens to a 
sermon over the length of which it explicitly haggles 
and grumbles — in this exhibition there is something 
very impressive to a stranger, something which he 
hardly knows whether to estimate as a great force 
or as a great futility. He inclines on the whole 
to pronounce the spectacle sublime, because it 
gives him the feeling that whenever it may become 
necessary for a people trained in these manoeuvres 
to move all together under a common direction, 



124 ENGLISH HOURS 

they will have it in them to do so with tremendous 
weight and cohesiveness. We hear a good deal about 
the effect of the Prussian military system in con- 
solidating the German people and making them 
available for a particular purpose; but I really 
think it not fanciful to say that the military punc- 
tuality which characterises the English observance of 
Sunday ought to be appreciated in the same fashion. 
A nation which has passed through such a mill will 
certainly have been stamped by it. And here, as in 
the German mihtary service, it is really the whole 
nation. When I spoke just now of paterfamihas 
and his entourage I did not mean to limit the state- 
ment to him. The young unmarried men go to 
church, the gay bachelors, the irresponsible members 
of society. (That last epithet must be taken with a 
grain of allowance. No one in England is literally 
irresponsible; that perhaps is the shortest way of 
expressing a stranger's, certainly an American's, 
sense of their cohesion. Every one is free and every 
one is responsible. To say what it is people are 
responsible to is of course a great extension of the 
question : briefly, to social expectation, to propriety, 
to morality, to ''position," to the conventional Eng- 
lish conscience, which is, after all, such a powerful 
factor. With us there is infinitely less responsibility ; 
but there is also, I think, less freedom.) 

The way in which the example of the more 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 125 

luxurious classes imposes itself upon the less luxu- 
rious may of course be noticed in smaller matters 
than church-going; in a great many matters which 
it may seem trivial to mention. If one is bent upon 
observation nothing, however, is trivial. So I may 
cite the practice of banishing the servants from the 
room at breakfast. It is the fashion, and accord- 
ingly, through the length and breadth of England, 
every one who has the sHghtest pretension to stand- 
ing high enough to feel the way the social breeze 
is blowing conforms to it. It is awkward, unnatural, 
troublesome for those at table, it involves a vast 
amount of leaning and stretching, of waiting and 
perambulating, and it has just that vice against 
which, in English history, all great movements have 
been made — it is arbitrary. But it flourishes for 
all that, and all genteel people, looking into each 
other's eyes with the desperation of gentility, agree 
to endure it for gentility's sake. My instance may 
seem feeble, and I speak honestly when I say I 
might give others, forming part of an immense body 
of prescriptive usage, to which a society possessing 
in the largest manner, both by temperament and 
education, the sense of the "inahenable" rights and 
comforts of the individual, contrives to accommodate 
itself. I do not mean to say that usage in England 
is always uncomfortable and arbitrary. On the 
contrary, few strangers can be unfamiliar with that 



126 ENGLISH HOURS 

sensation (a most agreeable one) which consists in 
perceiving in the rigidity of a tradition which has 
struck one at first as mechanical a reason existing 
in the historic "good sense" of the English race. 
The sensation is frequent, though in saying so I do 
not mean to imply that even superficially the pre- 
sumption is against the usages of English society. 
It is not, for instance, necessarily against the custom 
of which I had it more especially in mind to speak 
in writing these fines. The stranger in London is 
forewarned that at Easter all the world goes out of 
town, and that if he have no mind to be left to some 
fate the universal terror of which half allures half 
appals his curiosity, he too had better make arrange- 
ments for a temporary absence. It must be admitted 
that there is a sort of unexpectedness in this prompt 
re-emigration of a body of people who but a week 
before were apparently devoting much energy to 
settling down for the season. Half of them have but 
lately come back from the country, where they have 
been spending the winter, and they have just had 
time, it may be supposed, to collect the scattered 
threads of town-life. Presently, however, the threads 
are dropped and society is dispersed as if it had 
taken a false start. It departs as Holy Week draws 
to a close, and remains absent for the following ten 
days. Where it goes is its own affair; a good deal 
of it goes to Paris. Spending last winter in that 




DARK MYSTERIOUS LONDON 
Near Queen Anne's Gate, Westminster 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 127 

city, I remember how, when I woke up on Easter 
Monday and looked out of my window, I found the 
street covered overnight with a sort of snow-fall of 
disembarked Britons. They made for other people 
an uncomfortable week of it. One's customary table 
at the restaurant, one's habitual stall at the Theatre 
Frangais, one's usual fiacre on the cab-stand, were 
very apt to have suffered estrangement. I believe 
the pilgrimage to Paris was this year of the usual 
proportions; and you may be sure that people who 
did not cross the Channel were not without invita- 
tions to quiet old places in the country, where the 
pale fresh primroses were beginning to light up the 
dark turf and the purple bloom of the bare tree- 
masses to be freckled here and there with verdure. 
In England country-life is the obverse of the medal, 
town-life the reverse, and when an occasion comes 
for quitting London there are few members of 
what the French call the "easy class" who have not 
a collection of dull, moist, verdant resorts to choose 
from. Dull I call them, and I fancy not without 
reason, though at the moment I speak of their dul- 
ness must have been mitigated by the unintermittent 
presence of the keenest and liveliest of east winds. 
Even in mellow EngHsh country homes Easter-tide 
is a period of rawness and atmospheric acridity — 
the moment at which the frank hostility of winter, 
which has at last to give up the game, turns to 



128 ENGLISH HOURS 

peevishness and spite. This is what makes it arbi- 
trary, as I said just now, for ''easy" people to go 
forth to the wind-swept lawns and the shivering 
parks. But nothing is more striking to an American 
than the frequency of English holidays and the large 
way in which occasions for ''a little change" are 
made use of. All this speaks to Americans of three 
things which they are accustomed to see allotted in 
scantier measure. The Enghsh have more time 
than we, they have more money, and they have a 
much higher relish for active leisure. Leisure, 
fortune, and the love of sport are felicities en- 
countered in English society at every turn. It was 
a very small number of weeks before Easter that 
Parliament met, and yet a ten days' recess was 
already, from the luxurious Parliamentary point of 
view, a necessity. A short time hence we shall be 
having the Whitsuntide holidays, which I am told 
are even more of a season of revelry than Easter, 
and from this point to midsummer, when everything 
stops, is an easy journey. The men of business and 
the professional men partake in equal measure of 
these agreeable diversions, and I was interested in 
hearing a lady whose husband was an active mem- 
ber of the bar say that, though he was leaving town 
with her for ten days, and though Easter was a very 
nice "httle break," they really amused themselves 
more during the later festival, which would come 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 129 

on toward the end of May. I thought this highly 
probable, and admired in their career such an effect 
of breeze-blown hght and shade. If my phrase has 
a slightly ironical sound, this is purely accidental. 
A large appetite for holidays, the ability not only to 
take them but to know what to do with them when 
taken, is the sign of a robust people, and judged 
by this measure we Americans are sadly inexpert. 
Such holidays as we take are taken very often in 
Europe, where it is sometimes noticeable that our 
privilege is rather heavy on our hands. Acknowledg- 
ment made of English industry, however (our own 
stands in no need of compHments), it must be added 
that for those same easy classes I just spoke of things 
are very easy indeed. The number of persons ob- 
tainable for purely social purposes at all times and 
seasons is infinitely greater than among ourselves; 
and the ingenuity of the arrangements permanently 
going forward to disembarrass them of their super- 
fluous leisure is as yet in America an undeveloped 
branch of civilisation. The young men who are 
preparing for the stern realities of life among the 
grey- green cloisters of Oxford are obliged to keep 
their terms but half the year; and the rosy little 
cricketers of Eton and Harrow are let loose upon 
the parental home for an embarrassing number of 
months. Happily the parental home is apt to be an 
affair of gardens, lawns, and parks. 



I30 ENGLISH HOURS 

II 

Passion Week, in London, is distinctly an ascetic 
period ; there is really an approach to sackcloth and 
ashes. Private dissipation is suspended; most of 
the theatres and music-halls are closed; the huge 
dusky city seems to take on a still sadder colouring 
and a half-hearted hush steals over its mighty up- 
roar. At such a moment, for a stranger, London is 
not cheerful. Arriving there, during the past v^inter, 
about Christmas-time, I encountered three British 
Sundays in a row — a spectacle to strike terror into 
the stoutest heart. A Sunday and a '' bank-holiday," 
if I remember aright, had joined hands with a Christ- 
mas Day and produced the portentous phenomenon 
to which I allude. I betrayed, I suppose, some ap- 
prehension of its oppressive character, for I remem- 
ber being told in a consolatory way that I need n't 
fear; it would not come round again for another 
year. This information was given me on the occa- 
sion of that surprising interruption of one's relations 
with the laundress which is apparently characteristic 
of the period. I was told that all the washerwomen 
were intoxicated and that, as it would take them 
some time to revive, I must not count upon a relay 
of "fresh things." I shall not forget the impression 
made upon me by this statement; I had just come 
from Paris and it almost sent me spinning back. 



(-.. i 






Wr^"" 



y.., 







w^ 




IN ST. JAMES'S PARK 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 131 

One of the incidental agrements of life in the latter 
city had been the knock at my door on Saturday 
evenings of a charming young woman with a large 
basket protected by a snowy napkin on her arm, and 
on her head a frilled and fluted muslin cap which 
was an irresistible advertisement of her art. To say 
that my admirable blanchisseuse was not in liquor 
is altogether too gross a compliment; but I was al- 
ways grateful to her for her russet cheek, her frank 
expressive eye, her talkative smile, for the way her 
charming cap was poised upon her crisp, dense hair 
and her well-made dress adjusted and worn. I 
talked with her; I could talk with her; and as she 
talked she moved about and laid out her linen with 
a delightful modest ease. Then her light step carried 
her off again, talking, to the door, and with a brighter 
smile and an ''Adieu, monsieur!" she closed it be- 
hind her, leaving one to think how stupid is preju- 
dice and how poetic a creature a washerwoman may 
be. London, in December, was livid with sleet and 
fog, and against this dismal background was offered 
me the vision of a horrible old woman in a smoky 
bonnet, lying prone in a puddle of whiskey! She 
seemed to assume a kind of symbolic significance 
and almost frightened me away. 

I mention this trifle, which is doubtless not 
creditable to my fortitude, because I found that the 
information given me was not strictly accurate and 



132 ENGLISH HOURS 

that at the end of three months I had another array 
of London Sundays to face. On this occasion, how- 
ever, nothing occurred to suggest again the dreadful 
image I have just sketched, though I devoted a good 
deal of time to observing the manners of the lower 
orders. From Good Friday to Easter Monday, in- 
clusive, they were very much en evidence, and it was 
an excellent occasion for getting an impression of 
the British populace. Gentihty had retired to the 
background, and in the West End all the blinds were 
lowered ; the streets were void of carriages, and well- 
dressed pedestrians were rare; but the "masses" 
were all abroad and making the most of their holi- 
day, so that I strolled about and watched them at 
their gambols. The heavens were most unfavourable, 
but in an English "outing" there is always a margin 
left for a drenching, and throughout the vast smoky 
city, beneath the shifting gloom of the sky, the 
grimy crowds wandered with a kind of weather- 
proof stolidity. The parks were full of them, the 
railway stations overflowed, the Thames embank- 
ment was covered. The "masses," I think, are 
usually an entertaining spectacle, even when ob- 
served through the distorting medium of London 
bad weather. There are indeed few things in their 
way more impressive than a dusky London holiday; 
it suggests so many and such interestingly related 
reflections. Even looked at superficially the capital 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 133 

of the Empire is one of the most appeahng of cities, 
and it is perhaps on such occasions as this that 
I have most felt its appeal. London is ugly, dusky, 
dreary, more destitute than any European city of 
graceful and decorative incident; and though on 
festal days, like those I speak of, the populace is 
massed in large numbers at certain points, many 
of the streets are empty enough of human life to 
enable you to perceive their intrinsic want of charm. 
A Christmas Day or a Good Friday uncovers the 
ugliness of London. As you walk along the streets, 
having no fellow pedestrians to look at, you look up 
at the brown brick house-walls, corroded with soot 
and fog, pierced with their straight stiff window-slits, 
and finished, by way of a cornice, with a little black 
line resembhng a sHce of curbstone. There is not 
an accessory, not a touch of architectural fancy, 
not the narrowest concession to beauty. If I were 
a foreigner it would make me rabid ; being an Anglo- 
Saxon I find in it what Thackeray found in Baker 
Street — a delightful proof of English domestic 
virtue, of the sanctity of the British home. There 
are miles and miles of these edifying monuments, 
and it would seem that a city made up of them should 
have no claim to that larger effectiveness of which 
I just now spoke. London, however, is not made 
up of them; there are architectural combinations of 
a statelier kind, and the impression moreover does 



134 ENGLISH HOURS 

not rest on details. London is pictorial in spite of 
details — from its dark-green, misty parks, the way 
the light comes down leaking and filtering from its 
cloud- ceiling, and the softness and richness of tone 
which objects put on in such an atmosphere as soon 
as they begin to recede. Nowhere is there such 
a play of light and shade, such a struggle of sun and 
smoke, such aerial gradations and confusions. To 
eyes addicted to such contemplations this is a con- 
stant diversion, and yet this is only part of it. What 
completes the effect of the place is its appeal to the 
feelings, made in so many ways, but made above all 
by agglomerated immensity. At any given point 
London looks huge; even in narrow corners you 
have a sense of its hugeness, and petty places ac- 
quire a certain interest from their being parts of so 
mighty a whole. Nowhere else is so much human 
life gathered together, and nowhere does it press 
upon you with so many suggestions. These are not 
all of an exhilarating kind ; far from it. But they are 
of every possible kind, and that is the interest of 
London. Those that were most forcible during the 
showery Easter season were certain of the more 
perplexing and depressing ones; but even with 
these was mingled a brighter strain. 

I walked down to Westminster Abbey on Good 
Friday afternoon — walked from Piccadilly across 
the Green Park and through that of St. James. The 




BAKER STREET 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 135 

parks were densely filled with the populace — the 
elder people shuffling about the walks and the poor 
little smutty-faced children sprawling over the dark 
damp turf. When I reached the Abbey, I found 
a dense group of people about the entrance, but 
I squeezed my way through them and succeeded in 
reaching the threshold. Beyond this it was impos- 
sible to advance, and I may add that it was not de- 
sirable. I put my nose into the church and promptly 
withdrew it. The crowd was terribly compact, and 
beneath the gothic arches the odour was not that 
of incense. I gradually gave it up, with that very 
modified sense of disappointment that one feels in 
London at being crowded out of a place. This is 
a frequent form of philosophy, for you soon learn 
that there are, selfishly speaking, too many people. 
Human fife is cheap; your fellow mortals are too 
numerous. Wherever you go you make the observa- 
tion. At the theatre, at a concert, an exhibition, 
a reception, you always find that, before you arrive, 
there are people enough in the field. You are a tight 
fit in your place, wherever you find it; you have 
too many companions and competitors. You feel 
yourself at times in danger of thinking meanly of 
the human personality; numerosity, as it were, 
swallows up quality, and the perpetual sense of 
other elbows and knees begets a yearning for the 
desert. This is the reason why the perfection of 



136 ENGLISH HOURS 

luxury in England is to own a " park" — an artificial 
solitude. To get one's self into the middle of a few 
hundred acres of oak-studded turf and to keep off 
the crowd by the breadth, at least, of the grassy 
shade, is to enjoy a comfort which circumstances 
make peculiarly precious. But I walked back 
through the profane pleasure-grounds of London, 
in the midst of "superfluous herds," and I found 
the profit of vision that I never fail to derive from 
a great Enghsh assemblage. The English are, on 
the whole, to my eyes so appreciably the handsomest 
people in Europe — remembering always, of course, 
that when we talk of the frequency of beauty any- 
where we talk of a minor quantity, more small or 
less small — that it takes some effort of the imagina- 
tion to believe that the appearance requires demon- 
stration. I never see a large number of them without 
feeling this impression confirmed ; though I hasten 
to add that I have sometimes felt it to be much 
shaken in the presence of a limited group. I suspect 
that a great Enghsh crowd would yield a larger 
percentage of regular faces and tall figures than any 
other. With regard to the upper class, I suppose 
this is generally granted; but, with all abatements, 
I should extend it to the people at large. Certainly, 
if the English populace strike the observer as reg- 
ular, nature, in them, must have clung hard to the 
higher ideal. They are as ill-dressed as their betters 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 137 

are well-dressed, and their garments have that sooty 
surface which has nothing in common with the 
continental costume of labour and privation. It is 
the hard prose of misery — an ugly and hopeless 
imitation of respectable attire. This is especially 
noticeable in the battered and bedraggled bonnets 
of the women, which look as if their husbands had 
stamped on them, in hobnailed boots, as a hint of 
what may be in store for their wearers. Then it is 
not too much to say that two thirds of the London 
faces, as the streets present them, bear in some 
degree or other the traces of alcoholic action. The 
proportion of flushed, empurpled, eruptive masks is 
considerable; a source of depression, for the spec- 
tator, not diminished by the fact that many of the 
faces thus disfigured have evidently been planned 
on lines of high superficial decency. A very large 
allowance is to be made, too, for the people who 
bear the distinctive stamp of that physical and men- 
tal degradation which comes from the slums and 
purlieus of this duskiest of modern Babylons — the 
pallid, stunted, misbegotten and in every way miser- 
able figures. These people swarm in every London 
crowd, and I know of none in any other place that 
suggest an equal depth of degradation. But when 
such exceptions are taken the observer still notes 
the quantity and degree of facial finish, the firmness 
of type, if not always its fineness, the clearnesses and 



138 ENGLISH HOURS 

symmetries, the modelled brows and cheeks and 
chins, the immense contribution made to his im- 
pression, above all, by the elements of complexion 
and stature. The question of expression is another 
matter, and one must admit at the outset, to have 
done with it, that expression here in general lacks, 
even to strangeness, any perceptible intensity, 
though it often has among the women, and adorably 
among the children, an indescribable shy delicacy. 
I have it at heart, however, to add that if the Eng- 
lish are handsomer than ourselves they are also very 
much uglier. Indeed I think all the European peo- 
ples more richly ugly than the American : we are far 
from producing those magnificent types of facial ec- 
centricity which flourish on soils socially more rank. 
American ugliness is on the side of physical poverty 
and meanness; English on that of redundancy and 
monstrosity. In America there are few grotesques; 
in England there are many — and some of them 
have a high plastic, historic, romantic value. 

Ill 

The element of the grotesque was very noticeable 
to me in the most marked collection of the shabbier 
English types that I had seen since I came to Lon- 
don. The occasion of my seeing them was the 
funeral of Mr. George Odger, which befell some four 
or five weeks before the Easter period. Mr. George 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 139 

Odger, it will perhaps be remembered, was an Eng- 
lish radical agitator of humble origin, who had dis- 
tinguished himself by a perverse desire to get into 
Parliament. He exercised, I believe, the useful pro- 
fession of shoemaker, and he knocked in vain at the 
door that opens but to the refined. But he was a use- 
ful and honourable man, and his own people gave him 
an honourable burial. I emerged accidentally into 
Piccadilly at the moment they were so engaged, and 
the spectacle was one I should have been sorry to 
miss. The crowd was enormous, but I managed to 
squeeze through it and to get into a hansom cab 
that was drawn up beside the pavement, and here I 
looked on as from a box at the play. Though it was 
a funeral that was going on I will not call it a trag- 
edy; but it was a very serious comedy. The day 
happened to be magnificent — the finest of the year. 
The ceremony had been taken in hand by the classes 
who are socially unrepresented in Parhament, and 
it had the character of a great popular manifesta- 
tion. The hearse was followed by very few carriages, 
but the cortege of pedestrians stretched away in the 
sunshine, up and down the classic decorum of Pic- 
cadilly, on a scale highly impressive. Here and there 
the fine was broken by a small brass band — appar- 
ently one of those bands of itinerant Germans that 
play for coppers beneath lodging-house windows; 
but for the rest it was compactly made up of what 



I40 ENGLISH HOURS 

the newspapers call the dregs of the population. It 
was the London rabble, the metropolitan mob, men 
and women, boys and girls, the decent poor and 
the indecent, who had scrambled into the ranks as 
they gathered them up on their passage, and were 
making a sort of solemn ''lark" of it. Very solemn 
it all was — perfectly proper and undemonstrative. 
They shuffled along in an interminable hne, and 
as I looked at them out of the front of my hansom 
I seemed to be having a sort of panoramic view of 
the under side, the wrong side, of the London world. 
The procession was filled with figures which seemed 
never to have "shown out," as the English say, 
before; of strange, pale, mouldy paupers who 
blinked and stumbled in the Piccadilly sunshine. I 
have no space to describe them more minutely, but 
I found the whole affair vaguely yet portentously 
suggestive. My impression rose not simply from the 
radical, or, as I may say for the sake of colour, the 
revolutionary, emanation of this dingy concourse, 
lighted up by the ironic sky; but from the same 
causes I had observed a short time before, on the day 
the Queen went to open Parliament, when in Trafal- 
gar Square, looking straight down into Westminster 
and over the royal procession, were gathered a group 
of banners and festoons inscribed in big staring let- 
ters with mottoes and sentiments which might easily 
have given on the nerves of a sensitive police depart- 




CANTERBURY, FROM THE MEADOWS 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 141 

ment. They were mostly in allusion to the Tich- 
borne claimant, whose release from his dungeon 
they peremptorily demanded and whose cruel fate 
was taken as a pretext for several sweeping reflec- 
tions on the social arrangements of the time and 
country. These signals of unreason were allowed to 
sun themselves as freely as if they had been the man- 
ifestoes of the Irish Giant or the Oriental Dwarf at a 
fair. I had lately come from Paris, where the author- 
ities have a shorter patience and where revolutionary 
placards at the base of the obelisk in the Place de la 
Concorde fall in with no recognised scheme — such 
is the effect of the whirligig of time — of the grand 
style or of monumental decorum. I was therefore 
the more struck on both of the occasions I speak of 
with the admirable English practice of letting peo- 
ple alone — with the frank good sense and the frank 
good humour and even the frank good taste of it. 
It was this that I found impressive as I watched the 
manifestation of Mr. Odger's underfed partisans — 
the fact that the mighty mob could march along and 
do its errand while the excellent quiet policemen — 
eternal, imperturbable, positively loveable reminders 
of the national temperament — stood by simply to 
see that the channel was kept clear and comfortable. 
When Easter Monday came it was obvious that 
every one (save Mr. Odger's friends — three or four 
milHon or so) had gone out of town. There was 



142 ENGLISH HOURS 

hardly a pair of shutters in the West End that was 
not closed; there was not a bell that it was any use 
to pull. The weather was detestable, the rain in- 
cessant, and the fact that all your friends were away 
gave you plenty of leisure to reflect that the country 
must be the reverse of enlivening. But all your 
friends had gone thither (this is the unanimity I 
began by talking about), and to restrict as much as 
possible the proportions of that game of hide-and- 
seek of which, at the best, so much of London social 
life consists, it seemed wise to bring within the limits 
of the dull season any such excursion as might have 
been projected in commemoration of the first days 
of spring. After due cogitation I paid a little visit 
to Canterbury and Dover, taking Rochester by the 
way, and it was of this momentous journey that I 
proposed, in beginning these remarks, to give an 
account. But I have dallied so much by the way 
that I have come almost to my rope's end without 
reaching my first stage. I should have begun, artist- 
ically, by relating that I put myself in the humour 
for remote adventure by going down the Thames on 
a penny steamboat to the towers of Julius. This was 
on the Saturday before Easter, and the City was as 
silent as the grave. "London's lasting shame" was 
a memory of my childhood, and, having a theory 
that from such memories the dust of the ages had 
better not be shaken, I had not retraced my steps to 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 143 

its venerable walls. But the Tower — the Tower — 
is very good, and much less cockneyfied than I sup- 
posed it would seem to my maturer vision ; very grey 
and historical, with the look that vivifies (rather 
lividly indeed) the past. I could not get into it, as it 
had been closed for Passion Week, but I was conse- 
quently relieved from the obligation to march about 
with a dozen fellow starers in the train of a didactic 
beef-eater, and I strolled at will through the courts 
and the garden, sharing them only with the lounging 
soldiers of the garrison, who seemed to connect the 
place, for the backward- reaching fancy, with import- 
ant events. 

IV 

At Rochester I stopped for the sake of its castle, 
which I espied from the railway train as it perched 
on a grassy bank beside the widening Medway. 
There were other beguilements as well; the place 
has a small cathedral, and, leaving the creators of 
Falstaff and of the tale-telling Pilgrims out of the 
question, one had read about it in Dickens, whose 
house of Gadshill was a couple of miles from the 
town. All this Kentish country, between London 
and Dover, figures indeed repeatedly in Dickens; 
he expresses to a certain extent, for our later age, the 
spirit of the land. I found this to be quite the case at 
Rochester. I had occasion to go into a little shop 



144 ENGLISH HOURS 

kept by a talkative old woman who had a photo- 
graph of Gadshill lying on her counter. This led to 
my asking her whether the illustrious master of the 
house had often, to her old-time vision, made his 
appearance in the town. ''Oh, bless you, sir," she 
said, "we every one of us knew him to speak to. He 
was in this very shop on the Tuesday with a party 
of foreigners — as he was dead in his bed on the 
Frday." (I should remark that I probably do not 
repeat the days of the week as she gave them.) " He 
'ad on his black velvet suit, and it always made him 
look so 'andsome. I said to my 'usband, ' I do think 
Charles Dickens looks so nice in that black velvet 
suit.' But he said he could n't see as he looked any 
way particular. He was in this very shop on the Tues- 
day, with a party of foreigners." Rochester consists 
of little more than one long street, stretching away 
from the castle and the river toward neighbouring 
Chatham, and edged with low brick houses, of in- 
tensely provincial aspect, most of which have some 
small, dull smugness or quaintness of gable or win- 
dow. Nearly opposite to the shop of the old lady 
with the snubby husband is a httle dwelling with an 
inscribed slab set into its face, which must often have 
provoked a smile in the great master of the comic. 
The slab relates that in the year 1579 Richard Watts 
here estabhshed a charity which should furnish "six 
poor travellers, not rogues or proctors," one night's 




ROCHESTER CASTLE 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 145 

lodging and entertainment gratis, and fourpence in 
the morning to go on their way withal, and that in 
memory of his "munificence" the stone has lately 
been renewed. The inn at Rochester had small 
hospitality, and I felt strongly tempted to knock at 
the door of Mr. Watts's asylum, under plea of being 
neither a rogue nor a proctor. The poor traveller 
who avails himself of the testamentary fourpence 
may easily resume his journey as far as Chatham 
without breaking his treasure. Is not this the place 
where little Davy Copperfield slept under a cannon 
on his journey from London to Dover to join his 
aunt Miss Trotwood ? The two towns are really but 
one, which forms an interminable crooked thorough- 
fare, lighted up in the dusk, as I measured it up and 
down, with the red coats of the vespertinal soldier 
quartered at the various barracks of Chatham. 

The cathedral of Rochester is small and plain, 
hidden away in rather an awkward corner, without 
a verdant close to set it off. It is dwarfed and effaced 
by the great square Norman keep of the adjacent 
castle. But within it is very charming, especially 
beyond the detestable wall, the vice of almost all 
the English cathedrals, which shuts in the choir and 
breaks the sacred perspective of the aisle. Here, as 
at Canterbury, you ascend a high range of steps, 
to pass through the small door in the wall. When 
I speak slightingly, by the way, of the outside of 



146 ENGLISH HOURS 

Rochester cathedral, I intend my faint praise in a 
relative sense. If we were so happy as to have this 
secondary pile within reach in America we should 
go barefoot to see it ; but here it stands in the great 
shadow of Canterbury, and that makes it humble. 
I remember, however, an old priory gateway which 
leads you to the church, out of the main street; I 
remember a kind of haunted-looking deanery, if that 
be the technical name, at the base of the eastern 
walls ; I remember a fluted tower that took the after- 
noon light and let the rooks and the swallows come 
circling and clamouring around it. Better still than 
these things, I remember the ivy-muffled squareness 
of the castle, a very noble and imposing ruin. The 
old walled precinct has been converted into a little 
public garden, with flowers and benches and a 
pavihon for a band, and the place was not empty, as 
such places in England never are. The result is 
agreeable, but I believe the process was barbarous, 
involving the destruction and dispersion of many 
interesting portions of the ruin. I lingered there for 
a long time, looking in the fading light at what 
was left. This rugged pile of Norman masonry will 
be left when a great many solid things have de- 
parted; it mocks, ever so monotonously, at destruc- 
tion, at decay. Its walls are fantastically thick ; their 
great time-bleached expanses and all their rounded 
roughnesses, their strange mixture of softness and 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 147 

grimness, have an undefinable fascination for the 
eye. EngHsh ruins always come out pecuHarly when 
the day begins to fail. Weather-bleached, as I say 
they are, they turn even paler in the twilight and 
grow consciously solemn and spectral. I have seen 
many a mouldering castle, but I remember in no 
single mass of ruin more of the helpless, bereaved, 
amputated look. 

It is not the absence of a close that damages 
Canterbury; the cathedral stands amid grass and 
trees, with a cultivated margin all round it, and is 
placed in such a way that, as you pass out from 
under the gate-house you appreciate immediately its 
grand feature — its extraordinary and magnificent 
length. None of the English cathedrals seems to sit 
more gravely apart, to desire more to be shut up to 
itself. It is a long walk, beneath the walls, from the 
gateway of the close to the farther end of the last 
chapel. Of all that there is to observe in this upward- 
gazing stroll I can give no detailed account ; I can, 
in my fear to pretend to dabble in the esoteric con- 
structional question — often so combined with an 
absence of other felt relations — speak only of the 
picture, the mere builded scene. This is altogether 
dehghtful. None of the rivals of Canterbury has a 
more complicated and elaborate architecture, a more 
perplexing intermixture of periods, a more charming 
jumble of Norman arches and English points and 



148 ENGLISH HOURS 

perpendiculars. What makes the side-view superb, 
moreover, is the double transepts, which produce the 
finest agglomeration of gables and buttresses. It is 
as if two great churches had joined forces toward the 
middle — one giving its nave and the other its choir, 
and each keeping its own great cross-aisles. Astride 
of the roof, between them, sits a huge gothic tower, 
which is one of the latest portions of the building, 
though it looks like one of the earliest, so tempered 
and tinted, so thumb-marked and rubbed smooth is 
it, by the handling of the ages and the breath of the 
elements. Like the rest of the structure it has a mag- 
nificent colour — a sort of rich dull yellow, a sort of 
personal accent of tone that is neither brown nor 
grey. This is particularly appreciable from the 
cloisters on the further side of the church — the side, 
I mean, away from the town and the open garden- 
sweep I spoke of; the side that looks toward a damp 
old clerical house, lurking behind a brown archway 
through which you see young ladies in Gainsborough 
hats playing something on a patch of velvet turf; the 
side, in short, that is somehow intermingled with 
a green quadrangle — a quadrangle serving as a play- 
ground to a King's School and adorned externally 
with a very precious and picturesque old fragment 
of Norman staircase. This cloister is not '' kept up ; " 
it is very dusky and mouldy and dilapidated, and of 
course very sketchable. The old black arches and 




THE CATHEDRAL CLOSE, CANTERBURY 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 149 

capitals are various and handsome, and in the centre 
are tumbled together a group of crooked gravestones, 
themselves almost buried in the deep soft grass. Out 
of the cloister opens the chapter-house, which is not 
kept up either, but which is none the less a magni- 
ficent structure; a noble, lofty hall, with a beautiful 
wooden roof, simply arched like that of a tunnel, 
without columns or brackets. The place is now 
given up to dust and echoes ; but it looks more like 
a banqueting-hall than a council-room of priests, and 
as you sit on the old wooden bench, which, raised on 
two or three steps, runs round the base of the four 
walls, you may gaze up and make out the faint 
ghostly traces of decorative paint and gold upon the 
brown ceiling. A little patch of this has been restored 
''to give an idea." From one of the angles of the 
cloister you are recommended by the verger to take 
a view of the great tower, which indeed detaches 
itself with tremendous effect. You see it base itself 
upon the roof as broadly as if it were striking roots 
in earth, and then pile itself away to a height which 
seems to make the very swallows dizzy as they drop 
from the topmost shelf. Within the cathedral you 
hear a great deal, of course, about poor great 
Thomas A'Becket, and the special sensation of the 
place is to stand on the spot where he was murdered 
and look down at a small fragmentary slab which 
the verger points out to you as a bit of the pavement 



ISO ENGLISH HOURS 

that caught the blood-drops of the struggle. It was 
late in the afternoon when I first entered the church ; 
there had been a service in the choir, but that was 
well over, and I had the place to myself. The verger, 
who had some pushing-about of benches to attend 
to, turned me into the locked gates and left me to 
wander through the side-aisles of the choir and into 
the great chapel beyond it. I say I had the place to 
myself; but it would be more decent to affirm that 
I shared it, in particular, with another gentleman. 
This personage was stretched upon a couch of 
stone, beneath a quaint old canopy of wood; his 
hands were crossed upon his breast, and his pointed 
toes rested upon a little griffin or leopard. He was 
a very handsome fellow and the image of a gallant 
knight. His name was Edward Plantagenet, and 
his sobriquet was the Black Prince. ^^De la mort 
ne pensai-je mye,^^ he says in the beautiful inscrip- 
tion embossed upon the bronze base of his image; 
and I too, as I stood there, lost the sense of death in 
a momentary impression of personal nearness to 
him. One had been further off, after all, from other 
famous knights. In this same chapel, for many a 
year, stood the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury, 
one of the richest and most potent in Christendom. 
The pavement which lay before it has kept its place, 
but Henry VIII swept away everything else in his 
famous short cut to reform. Becket was originally 




THE NAVE, CANTERBURV 



AN ENGLISH EASTER 151 

buried in the crypt of the church; his ashes lay there 
for fifty years, and it was only little by little that his 
martyrdom was made a "draw." Then he was 
transplanted into the Lady Chapel; every grain of 
his dust became a priceless relic, and the pavement 
was hallowed by the knees of pilgrims. It was on 
this errand of course that Chaucer's story-telling 
cavalcade came to Canterbury. I made my way 
down into the crypt, which is a magnificent maze of 
low, dark arches and pillars, and groped about till 
I found the place where the frightened monks had 
first shuffiied the inanimate victim of Moreville and 
Fitzurse out of the reach of further desecration. 
While I stood there a violent thunderstorm broke 
over the cathedral; great rumbling gusts and rain- 
drifts came sweeping through the open sides of the 
crypt and, mingling with the darkness which seemed 
to deepen and flash in corners and with the potent 
mouldy smell, made me feel as if I had descended 
into the very bowels of history. I emerged again, but 
the rain had settled down and spoiled the evening, 
and I splashed back to my inn and sat, in an uncom- 
fortable chair by the coffee-room fire, reading Dean 
Stanley's agreeable "Memorials of Canterbury" 
and wondering over the musty appointments and 
meagre resources of so many English hostels. This 
establishment had entitled itself (in compliment to 
the Black Prince, I suppose) the "Fleur-de-Lis." 



152 



ENGLISH HOURS 



The name was very pretty (I had been foolish 
enough to let it attract me to the inn), but the lily 
was sadly deflowered. 

1877. 





LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 



I BELIEVE it is supposed to require a good deal 
of courage to confess that one has spent the 
month of so-called social August in London; and 
I will therefore, taking the bull by the horns, plead 
guilty at the very outset to this poorness of spirit. 
I might attempt some ingenious extenuation of it; 
I might say that my remaining in town had been the 
most unexpected necessity or the merest inadvert- 
ence ; I might pretend I liked it — that I had done 
it in fact for the perverse love of the thing; I might 
claim that you don't really know the charms of 
London until on one of the dog-days you have im- 



154 ENGLISH HOURS 

printed your boot-sole in the slumbering dust of 
Belgravia, or, gazing along the empty vista of the 
Drive, in Hyde Park, have beheld, for almost the 
first time in England, a landscape v^ithout figures. 
But httle would remain of these specious apologies 
save the bald circumstance that I had distinctly 
failed to pack and be off — either on the first of 
August with the ladies and children, or on the thir- 
teenth with the members of Parliament, or on the 
twelfth when the grouse- shooting began. (I am not 
sure that I have got my dates right to a day, but 
these were about the proper opportunities.) I have, 
in fact, survived the departure of everything genteel, 
and the three miUions of persons who remained 
behind with me have been witnesses of my shame. 
I cannot pretend, on the other hand, that, having 
lingered in town, I have found it a very odious or 
painful experience. Being a stranger, I have not 
felt it necessary to incarcerate myself during the 
day and steal abroad only under cover of the dark- 
ness — a line of conduct imposed by public opinion, 
if I am to trust the social criticism of the weekly 
papers (which I am far from doing), upon the native 
residents who allow themselves to be overtaken by 
the unfashionable season. I have indeed always 
held that few things are pleasanter, during very hot 
weather, than to have a great city, and a large house 
within it, quite to one's self. Yet these majestic 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 155 

conditions have not embellished my own metropoK- 
tan sojourn, and I have received an impression that 
in London it would be rather difficult for a visitor 
not having the command of a good deal of powerful 
machinery to find them united. Enghsh summer 
weather is rarely hot enough to make it necessary 
to darken one's house and denude one's person. The 
present year has indeed in this respect been "excep- 
tional," as any year is, for that matter, that one 
spends anywhere. But the manners of the people 
are, to aHen eyes, a sufficient indication that at 
the best (or the worst) even the highest flights of 
the thermometer in the united Kingdom betray a 
broken wing. People live with closed windows in 
August very much as they do in January, and there 
is to the eye no appreciable dift'erence in the charac- 
ter — that is in the thickness and stiffness — of 
their coats and boots. A "bath" in England, for 
the most part, all the year round, means a little 
portable tin tub and a sponge. Peaches and pears, 
grapes and melons, are not a more obvious orna- 
ment of the market at midsummer than at Christ- 
mas. This matter of peaches and melons, by the 
way, offers one of the best examples of that fact to 
which a commentator on English manners from 
afar finds himself constantly ^-ecurring, and to which 
he grows at last almost ashamed of alluding — the 
fact that the beauty and luxur}' of the countr}', that 



156 ENGLISH HOURS 

elaborate system known and revered all over the 
v^orld as ^'English comfort," is a limited and re- 
stricted, an essentially private, affair. I am not one 
of those irreverent strangers who talk of English 
fruit as a rather audacious plaisanterie, though I 
could see very well what was meant a short time 
since by an anecdote related to me in a tone of con- 
temptuous generalisation by a couple of my fellow 
countrywomen. They had arrived in London in the 
dog-days, and, lunching at their hotel, had asked 
to be served with some fruit. The hotel was of the 
stateliest pattern, and they were waited upon by 
a functionary whose grandeur was proportionate. 
This personage bowed and retired, and, after a long 
delay, reappearing, placed before them with an 
inimitable gesture a dish of gooseberries and cur- 
rants. It appeared upon investigation that these 
acrid vegetables were the only things of succulence 
that the establishment could undertake to supply; 
and it seemed to increase the irony of the situation 
that the establishment was as near as possible to 
Buckingham Palace. I say that the heroines of my 
anecdote seemed disposed to generahse: this was 
sufficiently the case, I mean, to give me a pretext 
for assuring them that on a thousand fine properties 
the most beautiful peaches and melons were at that 
moment ripening either under glass or in warm old 
walled gardens. My auditors tossed their heads. 




NEAR DEVONSHIRE HOUSE 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 157 

of course at the fine properties, the glass, and the 
walled gardens; and indeed at their place of priva- 
tion close to Buckingham Palace such a piece of 
knowledge was but scantily consoHng. 

It is to a more public fund of entertainment that 
the desultory stranger in any country chiefly appeals, 
especially in summer weather; and as I have im- 
plied that there is little encouragement in England 
to such an appeal it may appear remarkable that 
I should not have felt London, at this season, void 
of all beguilement. But one's liking for London — 
a stranger's liking at least — has at the best a kind 
of perversity and infirmity often rather difficult to 
reduce to a statement. I am far from meaning by 
this that there are not in this mighty metropolis 
a thousand sources of interest, entertainment, and 
delight: what I mean is that, for one reason and 
another, with all its social resources, the place lies 
heavy on the imported consciousness. It seems grim 
and lurid, fierce and unmerciful. And yet the im- 
ported consciousness accepts it at last with an active 
satisfaction and finds something warm and com- 
fortable, something that if removed would be greatly 
missed, in its portentous pressure. It must be ad- 
mitted, however, that, granting that every one is 
out of town, your choice of pastimes is not embar- 
rassing. If you have happened to spend a certain 
amount of time in places where public manners have 



158 ENGLISH HOURS 

more frankness London will seem to you scantly 
provided with innocent diversions. This indeed 
brings us back simply to that question of the ab- 
sence of a "pubhc fund" of amusement to which 
reference was just now made. You must give up 
the idea of going to sit somewhere in the open air, to 
eat an ice and listen to a band of music. You will 
find neither the seat, the ice, nor the band ; but on 
the other hand, faithful at once to your interest and 
your detachment, you may supply the place of these 
delights by a little private meditation on the deep- 
lying causes of the English indifference to them. 
In such reflections nothing is idle — every grain 
of testimony counts; and one need therefore not be 
accused of jumping too suddenly from small things 
to great if one traces a connection between the ab- 
sence of ices and music and the essentially hierarch- 
ical plan of English society. This hierarchical plan 
of English society is the great and ever-present fact 
to the mind of a stranger: there is hardly a detail 
of life that does not in some degree betray it. It 
is really only in a country in which a good deal of 
democratic feeling prevails that people of "refine- 
ment," as we say in America, will be willing to sit 
at little round tables, on a pavement or a gravel- 
walk, at the door of a cafe. The better sort are too 
"genteel" and the inferior sort too base. One must 
hasten to add too, in justice, that the better sort 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 159 

are, as a general thing, quite too well furnished with 
entertainments of their own ; they have those special 
resources to which I alluded a moment since. They 
are persons for whom the private machinery of ease 
has been made to work with extraordinary smooth- 
ness. If you can sit on a terrace overlooking gardens 
and have your caje noir handed you in old Worcester 
cups by servants who are models of consideration, 
you have hardly a decent pretext for going to a public 
house. In France and Italy, in Germany and Spain, 
the count and countess will sally forth and encamp 
for the evening, under a row of coloured lamps, upon 
the paving-stones, but it is ten to one that the count 
and countess live on a single floor and up several 
pair of stairs. They are, however, I think, not ap- 
preciably affected by considerations which operate 
potently in England. An EngHshman who should 
propose to sit down, in his own country, at a cafe- 
door, would find himself remembering that he is 
pretending to participations, contacts, fellowships 
the absolute impracticability of which is expressed 
in all the rest of his doings. 

The study of these reasons, however, would lead 
us very far from the potential little tables for ices 
in — where shall I say? — in Oxford Street. But, 
after all, there is no reason why our imagination 
should hover about any such articles of furniture. 
I am afraid thev would not strike us as at the best 



i6o ENGLISH HOURS 

happily situated. In such matters everything hangs 
together, and I am certain that the customs of the 
Boulevard des Italiens and the Piazza Colonna 
would not harmonise with the scenery of the great 
London thoroughfare. A gin-palace right and left 
and a detachment of the London rabble in an 
admiring semicircle — these strike one as some of 
the more obvious features of the affair. Yet at the 
season of which I write one's social studies must at 
the least be studies of low life, for wherever one may 
go for a stroll or to spend the summer afternoon the 
comparatively sordid side of things is uppermost. 
There is no one in the parks save the rough char- 
acters who are lying on their faces in the sheep- 
polluted grass. These people are always tolerably 
numerous in the Green Park, through which I fre- 
quently pass, and are always an occasion for deep 
wonder. But your wonder will go far if it begins to 
bestir itself on behalf of the recumbent British 
tramp. You perceive among them some rich pos- 
sibihties. Their velveteen legs and their colossal 
high-lows, their purple necks and ear-tips, their 
knotted sticks and little greasy hats, make them 
look like stage- villains of reahstic melodrama. I may 
do them injustice, but consistent character in them 
mostly requires that they shall have had a taste of 
penal servitude — that they shall have paid the 
penalty of stamping on some weaker human head 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER i6r 

with those huge square heels that are turned up to 
the summer sky. Actually, however, they are inno- 
cent enough, for they are sleeping as peacefully as 
the most accomplished philanthropist, and it is their 
look of having walked over half England, and of be- 
ing pennilessly hungry and thirsty, that constitutes 
their romantic attractiveness. These six square feet 
of brown grass are their present sufficiency ; but how 
long will they sleep, whither will they go next, and 
whence did they come last ? You permit yourself to 
wish that they might sleep for ever and go nowhere 
else at all. 

The month of August is so uncountenanced in 
London that, going a few days since to Greenwich, 
that famous resort, I found it possible to get but 
half a dinner. The celebrated hotel had put out its 
stoves and locked up its pantry. But for this dis- 
covery I should have mentioned the little expedition 
to Greenwich as a charming relief to the monotony 
of a London August. Greenwich and Richmond are, 
classically, the two suburban dining-places. I know 
not how it may be at this time with Richmond, but 
the Greenwich incident brings me back (T hope not 
once too often) to the element of what has lately 
been called ''particularism" in Enghsh pleasures. 
It was in obedience to a perfectly logical argument 
that the Greenwich hotel had, as I say, locked up 
its pantry. All well-bred people leave London after 



i62 ENGLISH HOURS 

the first week in August, ergo those who remain 
behind are not well-bred, and cannot therefore rise 
to the conception of a "fish dinner." Why then 
should we have anything ready? I had other im- 
pressions, fortunately, of this interesting suburb, 
and I hasten to declare that during the period of 
good-breeding the dinner at Greenwich is the most 
amusing of all dinners. It begins with fish and it 
continues with fish : what it ends with — except 
songs and speeches and affectionate partings — I 
hesitate to affirm. It is a kind of mermaid reversed; 
for I do know, in a vague way, that the tail of the 
creature is elaborately and interminably fleshy. If it 
were not grossly indiscreet I should risk an allusion 
to the particular banquet which was the occasion 
of my becoming acquainted with the Greenwich 
cuisine. I would try to express how pleasant it may 
be to sit in a company of clever and distinguished 
men before the large windows that look out upon 
the broad brown Thames. The ships swim by con- 
fidently, as if they were part of the entertainment 
and put down in the bill; the fight of the afternoon 
fades ever so slowly. We eat all the fish of the sea, 
and wash them down with liquids that bear no re- 
semblance to salt water. We partake of any number 
of those sauces with which, according to the French 
adage, one could swallow one's grandmother with 
a good conscience. To touch on the identity of my 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 163 

companions would indeed be indiscreet, but there 
is nothing indelicate in marking a high appreciation 
of the frankness and robustness of English con- 
viviality. The stranger — the American at least — 
who finds himself in the company of a number 
of Englishmen assembled for a convivial purpose 
becomes conscious of an indefinable and delectable 
something which, for want of a better name, he is 
moved to call their superior richness of temperament. 
He takes note of the liberal share of the individual 
in the magnificent temperament of the people. This 
seems to him one of the finest things in the world, 
and his satisfaction will take a keener edge from 
such an incident as the single one I may permit 
myself to mention. It was one of those httle incidents 
which can occur only in an old society — a society 
in which every one that a newly-arrived observer 
meets strikes him as having in some degree or other 
a sort of historic identity, being connected with some 
one or something that he has heard of, that he has 
wondered about. If they are not the rose they have 
lived more or less near it. There is an old English 
song- writer whom we all know and admire — whose 
songs are sung wherever the language is spoken. 
Of course, according to the law I just hinted at, one 
of the gentlemen sitting opposite must needs be his 
great-grandson. After dinner there are songs, and 
the gentleman trolls out one of his ancestral ditties 



i64 ENGLISH HOURS 

with the most charming voice and the most finished 
art. 

I have still other memories of Greenwich, where 
there is a charming old park, on a summit of one of 
whose grassy undulations the famous observatory is 
perched. To do the thing completely you must 
take passage upon one of the little grimy sixpenny 
steamers that ply upon the Thames, perform the 
journey by water, and then, disembarking, take a 
stroll in the park to get up an appetite for dinner. 
I find an irresistible charm in any sort of river- 
navigation, but I scarce know how to speak of the 
Httle voyage from Westminster Bridge to Green- 
wich. It is in truth the most prosaic possible form 
of being afloat, and to be recommended rather to the 
enquiring than to the fastidious mind. It initiates 
you into the duskiness, the blackness, the crowded- 
ness, the intensely commercial character of London. 
Few European cities have a finer river than the 
Thames, but none certainly has expended more 
ingenuity in producing a sordid river-front. For 
miles and miles you see nothing but the sooty backs 
of warehouses, or perhaps they are the sooty faces : 
in buildings so utterly expressionless it is impossible 
to distinguish. They stand massed together on the 
banks of the wide turbid stream, which is fortunately 
of too opaque a quality to reflect the dismal image. 
A damp-looking, dirty blackness is the universal 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 165 

tone. The river is almost black, and is covered 
with black barges; above the black housetops, 
from among the far-stretching docks and basins, 
rises a dusky wilderness of masts. The little puffing 
steamer is dingy and gritty — it belches a sable 
cloud that keeps you company as you go. In this 
carboniferous shower your companions, who belong 
chiefly indeed to the classes bereft of lustre, as- 
sume an harmonious greyness; and the whole pic- 
ture, glazed over with the glutinous London mist, 
becomes a masterly composition. But it is very 
impressive in spite of its want of lightness and bright- 
ness, and though it is ugly it is anything but trivial. 
Like so many of the aspects of English civilisation 
that are untouched by elegance or grace, it has the 
merit of expressing something very serious. Viewed 
in this intellectual hght the polluted river, the 
sprawling barges, the dead-faced warehouses, the 
frowsy people, the atmospheric impurities become 
richly suggestive. It sounds rather absurd, but all 
this smudgy detail may remind you of nothing less 
than the wealth and power of the British empire at 
large; so that a kind of metaphysical magnificence 
hovers over the scene, and supplies what may be 
hterally wanting. I don't exactly understand the 
association, but I know that when I look off to the 
left at the East India Docks, or pass under the dark 
hugely-piled bridges, where the railway trains and 



i66 ENGLISH HOURS 

the human processions are for ever moving, I feel 
a kind of imaginative thrill. The tremendous piers 
of the bridges, in especial, seem the very pillars of 
the empire aforesaid. 

It is doubtless owing to this habit of obtrusive 
and unprofitable reverie that the sentimental tourist 
thinks it very fine to see the Greenwich observatory 
lifting its two modest little brick towers. The sight 
of this useful edifice gave me a pleasure which may 
at first seem extravagant. The reason was simply 
that I used to see it as a child, in woodcuts, in school 
geographies, and in the corners of large maps which 
had a glazed, sallow surface, and which were sus- 
pended in unexpected places, in dark halls and 
behind doors. The maps were hung so high that 
my eyes could reach only to the lower corners, and 
these corners usually contained a print of a strange- 
looking house perched among trees upon a grassy 
bank that swept down before it with the most engag- 
ing steepness. I used always to think of the joy it 
must be to roll at one's length down this curved 
incline. Close at hand was usually something 
printed about something being at such and such a 
number of degrees ''east of Greenwich." Why east 
of Greenwich ? The vague wonder that the childish 
mind felt on this point gave the place a mysterious 
importance and seemed to put it into relation with 
the difficult and fascinating parts of geography — 







'1 


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p0-^ I- 1 


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^ 



KENSINGTON GARDENS 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 167 

the countries of unintentional outline and the lonely- 
looking pages of the atlas. Yet there it stood the 
other day, the precise point from which the great 
globe is measured; there was the plain little facade 
with the old-fashioned cupolas; there was the bank 
on which it would be so delightful not to be able to 
stop running. It made me feel terribly old to find 
that I was not even tempted to begin. There are 
indeed a great many steep banks in Greenwich 
Park, which tumbles up and down in the most 
adventurous fashion. It is a charming place, rather 
shabby and footworn, as befits a strictly popular 
resort, but with a character all its own. It is filled 
with magnificent foreign- looking trees, of which I 
know nothing but that they have a vain appearance 
of being chestnuts, planted in long, convergent 
avenues, with trunks of extraordinary girth and 
limbs that fling a dusky shadow far over the grass; 
there are plenty of benches, and there are deer as 
tame as sleepy children; and from the tops of the 
bosky hillocks there are views of the widening 
Thames and the moving ships and the two classic 
inns by the waterside and the great pompous build- 
ings, designed by Inigo Jones, of the old Hospital, 
which have been despoiled of their ancient pen- 
sioners and converted into a naval academy. 

Taking note of all this, I arrived at a far-away 
angle in the wall of the park, where a little postern 



i68 ENGLISH HOURS 

door stood ajar. I pushed the door open and found 
myself, by a thrilHng transition, upon Blackheath 
Common. One had often heard, in vague, irrecov- 
erable, anecdotic connections, of Blackheath: well, 
here it was — a great green, breezy place where 
lads in corduroys were playing cricket. I am, as 
a rule, moved to disproportionate ecstasy by an 
English common; it may be curtailed and cockney- 
fied, as this one was — which had lamp-posts stuck 
about on its turf and a fresh-painted banister all 
around — but it generally abounds in the note of 
Enghsh breeziness, and you always seem to have 
seen it water-coloured or engraved. Even if the turf 
be too much trodden there is to foreign eyes an 
intimate insular reference in it and in the way the 
high-piled, weather-bearing clouds hang over it and 
drizzle down their grey light. Still further to identify 
this spot, here was the British soldier emerging from 
two or three of the roads, with his cap upon his ear, 
his white gloves in one hand and his foppish little 
cane in the other. He wore the uniform of the 
artillery, and I asked him where he had come from. 
I learned that he had walked over from Woolwich and 
that this feat might be accomplished in half an hour. 
Inspired again by vague associations I proceeded 
to accomplish its equivalent. I bent my steps to 
Woolwich, a place which I knew, in a general way, 
to be a nursery of British valour. At the end of my 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 169 

half hour I emerged upon another common, where 
the water-colour bravery had even a higher pitch. 
The scene was like a chapter of some forgotten 
record. The open grassy expanse was immense, and, 
the evening being beautiful, it was dotted with 
strolling soldiers and townsfolk. There were half 
a dozen cricket-matches, both civil and military. At 
one end of this peaceful campus martins^ which 
stretches over a hilltop, rises an interminable facade 
— one of the fronts of the Royal Artillery barracks. 
It has a very honourable air, and more windows and 
doors, I imagine, than any building in Britain. 
There is a great clean parade before it, and there are 
many sentinels pacing in front of neatly-kept places 
of ingress to officers' quarters. Everything it looks 
out upon is in the smartest mihtary trim — the 
distinguished college (where the poor young man 
whom it would perhaps be premature to call the last 
of the Bonapartes lately studied the art of war) on 
one side; a sort of model camp, a collection of the 
tidiest plank huts, on the other; a hospital, on a 
well-ventilated site, at the remoter end. And then 
in the town below there are a great many more 
military matters : barracks on an immense scale; 
a dockyard that presents an interminable dead wall 
to the street ; an arsenal which the gatekeeper (who 
refused to admit me) declared to be ''five miles" in 
circumference; and, lastly, grogshops enough to 



I70 ENGLISH HOURS 

inflame the most craven spirit. These latter institu- 
tions I glanced at on my way to the railway-station 
at the bottom of the hill; but before departing I had 
spent half an hour in strolling about the common 
in vague consciousness of certain emotions that are 
called into play (I speak but for myself) by almost 
any glimpse of the imperial machinery of this great 
country. The glimpse may be of the shghtest; it 
stirs a pecuHar sentiment. I know not what to call 
this sentiment unless it be simply an admiration for 
the greatness of England. The greatness of Eng- 
land; that is a very off-hand phrase, and of course 
I don't pretend to use it analytically. I use it ro- 
mantically, as it sounds in the ears of any American 
who remounts the stream of time to the head waters 
of his own loyalties. I think of the great part that 
England has played in human affairs, the great 
space she has occupied, her tremendous might, her 
far-stretching rule. That these clumsily-general 
ideas should be suggested by the sight of some 
infinitesimal fraction of the EngHsh administrative 
system may seem to indicate a cast of fancy too 
hysterical; but if so I must plead guihy to the 
weakness. Why should a sentry-box more or less 
set one thinking of the glory of this little island, 
which has found in her mere genius the means of 
such a sway? This is more than I can tell; and all 
I shall attempt to say is that in the difficult days that 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 171 

are now elapsing a sympathising stranger finds his 
meditations singularly quickened. It is the imperial 
element in English history that he has chiefly cared 
for, and he finds himself wondering whether the 
imperial epoch is completely closed. It is a moment 
when all the nations of Europe seem to be doing 
something, and he waits to see what England, who 
has done so much, will do. He has been meeting of 
late a good many of his country-people — Americans 
who five on the Continent and pretend to speak with 
assurance of continental ways of feeling. These peo- 
ple have been passing through London, and many 
of them are in that irritated condition of mind which 
appears to be the portion of the American sojourner 
in the British metropolis when he is not given up to 
the dehghts of the historic sentiment. They have 
declared with assurance that the continental nations 
have ceased to care a straw for what England thinks, 
that her traditional prestige is completely extinct and 
that the affairs of Europe will be settled c|uite inde- 
pendently of her action and still more of her inaction. 
England will do nothing, will risk nothing; there 
is no cause bad enough for her not to find a selfish 
interest in it — there is no cause good enough for her 
to fight about it. Poor old England is defunct; it is 
about time she should seek the most decent burial 
possible. To all this the sympathetic stranger replies 
that in the first place he does n't believe a word of it, 



172 ENGLISH HOURS 

and in the second does n't care a fig for it — care, 
that is, what the continental nations think. If the 
greatness of England were really waning it would 
be to him as a personal grief; and as he strolls about 
the breezy common of Woolwich, with all those me- 
mentoes of British dominion around him, he vibrates 
quite too richly to be distracted by such vapours. 

He wishes nevertheless, as I said before, that 
England would do something — something striking 
and powerful, which should be at once characteristic 
and unexpected. He asks himself what she can do, 
and he remembers that this greatness of England 
which he so much admires was formerly much ex- 
emplified in her "taking" something. Can't she 
"take" something now? There is the "Spectator," 
who wants her to occupy Egypt: can't she occupy 
Egypt? The "Spectator" considers this her moral 
duty — enquires even whether she has a right not 
to bestow the blessings of her beneficent rule upon 
the down-trodden Fellaheen. I found myself in 
company with an acute young Frenchman a day or 
two after this eloquent plea for a partial annexation 
of the Nile had appeared in the supersubtle sheet. 
Some allusion was made to it, and my companion 
of course pronounced it the most finished example 
conceivable of insular hypocrisy. I don't know how 
powerful a defence I made of it, but while I read it 
I had found the hypocrisy contagious. I recalled it 



LONDON AT MIDSUMMER 173 

while I pursued my contemplations, but I recalled at 
the same time that sadly prosaic speech of Mr. Glad- 
stone's to which it had been a reply. Mr. Gladstone 
had said that England had much more urgent duties 
than the occupation of Egypt : she had to attend to 
the great questions of What were the great ques- 
tions? Those of local taxation and the liquor-laws! 
Local taxation and the Hquor-laws! The phrase, to 
my ears, just then, sounded almost squahd. These 
were not the things I had been thinking of; it was 
not as she should bend anxiously over these doubt- 
less interesting subjects that the sympathising 
stranger would seem to see England in his favour- 
ite posture — that, as Macaulay says, of hurling 
defiance at her foes. Mr. Gladstone may perhaps 
have been right, but Mr. Gladstone was far from 
being a sympathising stranger. 

1877. 








^^m.. 



TWO EXCURSIONS 



THEY differed greatly from each other, but 
there was something to be said for each. 
There seemed in respect to the first a high con - 
sensus as to its being a pity that any stranger should 
ever miss the Derby Day. Every one assured me that 
this was the great festival of the English people and 
that one did n't really know them unless one had 
seen them at it. So much, since it had to do with 
horse-flesh, I could readily believe. Had not the 
newspapers been filled for weeks with recurrent dis- 
sertations upon the animals concerned in the cere- 



176 ENGLISH HOURS 

mony ? and was not the event, to the nation at large, 
only imperceptibly less momentous than the other 
great question of the day — the fate of empires and 
the reapportionment of the East ? The space allotted 
to sporting intelHgence in a compact, eclectic, "intel- 
lectual" journal like the "Pall Mall Gazette," had 
seemed for some time past a measure of the hold 
of such questions upon the native mind. These 
things, hov^ever, are very natural in a country in 
which in "society" you are liable to make the 
acquaintance of some such syllogism as the follow- 
ing. You are seated at dinner next a foreign lady 
who has on her other hand a communicative gentle- 
man through whom she is under instruction in the 
art of the right point-of-view for English life. I pro- 
fit by their conversation and I learn that this point- 
of-view is apparently the saddle. "You see, English 
life," says the gentleman, "is really Enghsh country- 
life. It's the country that is the basis of English 
society. And you see, country-life is — well, it 's the 
hunting. It 's the hunting that is at the bottom of it 
all." In other words "the hunting" is the basis of 
EngHsh society. Duly impressed with this explana- 
tion, the American observer is prepared for the huge 
proportions of the annual pilgrimage to Epsom. 
This pilgrimage, however, I was assured, though 
still well worth taking part in, is by no means so 
■characteristic as in former days. It is now per- 



TWO EXCURSIONS 177 

formed in a large measure by rail, and the spectacle 
on the road has lost many of its earlier and most of 
its finer features. The road has been given up more 
and more to the populace and the strangers and has 
ceased to be graced by the presence of ladies. 
Nevertheless, as a man and a stranger, I was 
strongly recommended to take it, for the return 
from the Derby is still, with all its abatements, a 
classic show. 

I mounted upon a four-horse coach, a charming 
coach with a yellow body and handsome, clean- 
flanked leaders; placing myself beside the coach- 
man, as I had been told this was the point of van- 
tage. The coach was one of the vehicles of the new 
fashion — the fashion of public conveyances driven, 
for the entertainment of themselves and of the pub- 
he, by gentlemen of leisure. On the Derby Day all 
the coaches that start from the classic headquarters 
— the " White Horse " in Piccadilly — and stretch 
away from London toward a dozen different and 
well-selected goals, had been dedicated to the Epsom 
road. The body of the vehicle is empty, as no one 
thinks of occupying any but one of the thirteen 
places on the top. On the Derby Day, however, a 
properly laden coach carries a company of hampers 
and champagne-baskets in its inside places. I must 
add that on this occasion my companion was by 
exception a professional whip, who proved a friendly 



178 ENGLISH HOURS 

and amusing cicerone. Other companions there were, 
perched in the twelve places behind me, whose social 
quahty I made less of a point of testing — though in 
the course of the expedition their various character- 
istics, under the influence of champagne, expanded 
so freely as greatly to facilitate the process. We were 
a society of exotics — Spaniards, Frenchmen, Ger- 
mans. There were only two Britons, and these, 
according to my theory, were Australians — an 
antipodal bride and groom on a centripetal wedding- 
tour. 

The drive to Epsom, when you get well out of 
London, is sufficiently pretty; but the part of it 
which most took my fancy was a district preemi- 
nently suburban, the classic community of Clapham. 
The vision of Clapham had been a part of the furni- 
ture of one's milder historic consciousness — the 
vision of its respectable common, its evangehcal 
society, its rich drab humanity, its goodly brick 
mansions of the Georgian era. I now seemed really 
to focus these elements for the first time, and I 
thought them very charming. This epithet indeed 
scarcely applies to the evangehcal society, which 
naturally, on the morning of the Derby Day and 
during the desecrating progress of the Epsom revel- 
lers, was not much in the foreground. But all around 
the verdant if cockneyfied common are ranged com- 
modious houses of a sober red complexion, from 



TWO EXCURSIONS 179 

under whose neo-classic pediments you expect to see 
a mild-faced lady emerge — a lady in a cottage- 
bonnet and mittens, distributing tracts from a green 
silk satchel. It would take, however, the very ardour 
of the missionary among cannibals to stem the cur- 
rent of heterogeneous vehicles which at about this 
point takes up its metropolitan affluents and bears 
them in its rumbling, rattling tide. The concourse of 
wheeled conveyances of every possible order here 
becomes dense, and the spectacle from the top of the 
coach proportionately absorbing. You begin to per- 
ceive that the brilliancy of the road has in truth 
departed and that a sustained high tone of appear- 
ance is not the note of the conditions. But when once 
you have grasped this fact your entertainment is 
continuous. You perceive that you are "in" for the 
vulgar on an unsurpassable scale, something bla- 
tantly, unimaginably, heroically shocking to timid 
"taste;" all that is necessary is to accept this situa- 
tion and look out for illustrations. Beside you, be- 
fore you, behind you, is the mighty London populace 
taking its ehats. You get for the first time a notion 
of the London population at large. It has piled 
itself into carts, into omnibuses, into every possible 
and impossible species of "trap." A large propor- 
tion of it is of course on foot, trudging along the 
perilous margin of the middle way in such comfort 
as may be gathered from fifteen miles' dodging of 



i8o ENGLISH HOURS 

broken shins. The smaller the vehicle, the more rat- 
like the animal that drags it, the more numerous 
and ponderous its human freight ; and as every one 
is nursing in his lap a parcel of provender as big as 
himself, wrapped in ragged newspaper, it is not sur- 
prising that roadside halts are frequent and that 
the taverns all the way to Epsom (it is wonderful 
how many there are) are encompassed by dense 
groups of dusty pilgrims, indulging Hberally in 
refreshment for man and beast. And when I say 
man I must by no means be understood to exclude 
woman. The female contingent on the Derby Day 
is not the least remarkable part of the London out- 
pouring. Every one is prepared for "larks," but 
the women are even more brilliantly and resolutely 
prepared than the men ; there is no better chance to 
follow the range of type — not that it is to be called 
large — of the British female of the lower orders. 
The lady in question is usually not ornamental. She 
is useful, robust, prolific, excellently fitted to play 
the somewhat arduous part allotted to her in the 
great scheme of English civihsation, but she has not 
those graces which enable her to lend herself easily 
to the decoration of life. On smaller holidays, or 
on simple working-days, in London crowds, I have 
often thought she had points to contribute to the 
primary fine drawing, as to head and shoulders, of 
the Briton of the two sexes as the race at large 



TWO EXCURSIONS i8i 

sketches them. But at Epsom she is too stout, too 
hot, too red, too thirsty, too boisterous, too strangely 
accoutred. And yet I wish to do her justice; so 
I must add that if there is something to which an 
American cannot refuse a tribute of admiration in 
the gross plebeian jolhty of the Derby Day, it is not 
evident why these dowdy Bacchantes should not get 
part of the credit of it. The striking thing, the inter- 
esting thing, both on the outward drive and on the 
return, was that the holiday was so frankly, heartily, 
good-humouredly taken. The people that of all peo- 
ples is habitually the most governed by decencies, 
proprieties, rigidities of conduct, was for one happy 
day unbuttoning its respectable straight-jacket and 
affirming its large and simple sense, of the joy of life. 
In such a spectacle there was inevitably much that 
was unlucky and unprofitable; these things came 
uppermost chiefly on the return, when demorahsa- 
tion was supreme, when the temperament of the 
people had begun really to take the air. For the rest, 
to be dressed with a kind of brutal gaudiness, to be 
very thirsty and violently flushed, to laugh perpetu- 
ally at everything and at nothing, thoroughly to 
enjoy, in short, a momentous occasion — all this is 
not, in simple persons of the more susceptible sex, 
an unpardonable crime. 

The course at Epsom is in itself very pretty, and 
disposed by nature herself in sympathetic prevision 



i82 ENGLISH HOURS 

of the sporting passion. It is something like the 
crater of a volcano without the mountain. The 
outer rim is the course proper; the space within it 
is a vast, shallow, grassy concavity in which vehicles 
are drawn up and beasts tethered and in which the 
greater part of the multitude — the mountebanks, 
the betting-men, and the myriad hangers-on of the 
scene — are congregated. The outer margin of the 
uphfted rim in question is occupied by the grand 
stand, the small stands, the paddock. The day was 
exceptionally beautiful; the charming sky was 
spotted over with little idle-looking, loafing, irre- 
sponsible clouds; the Epsom Downs went swelling 
away as greenly as in a coloured sporting-print, and 
the wooded uplands, in the middle distance, looked 
as innocent and pastoral as if they had never seen 
a policeman or a rowdy. The crowd that spread 
itself over this immense expanse was as rich repre- 
sentation of human life off its guard as one need see. 
One's first fate after arriving, if one is perched upon 
a coach, is to see the coach guided, by means best 
known to the coachman himself, through the tre- 
mendous press of vehicles and pedestrians, intro- 
duced into a precinct roped off and guarded from 
intrusion save under payment of a fee, and then 
drawn up alongside of the course, as nearly as pos- 
sible opposite the grand stand and the winning 
post. Here you have only to stand up in your place 



^ 



TWO EXCURSIONS 183 

— on tiptoe, it is true, and with a good deal of 
stretching — to see the race fairly well. But I hasten 
to add that seeing the race is indifferent entertain- 
ment. In the first place you donH see it, and in the 
second — to be Irish on the occasion of a froHc — 
you perceive it to be not much worth the seeing. 
It may be fine in quahty, but in quantity it is in- 
appreciable. The horses and their jockeys first go 
dandling and cantering along the course to the 
starting-point, looking as insubstantial as sifted 
sunbeams. Then there is a long wait, during which, 
of the sixty thousand people present (my figures are 
imaginary), thirty thousand declare positively that 
they have started, and thirty thousand as positively 
deny it. Then the whole sixty thousand are sud- 
denly resolved into unanimity by the sight of a 
dozen small jockey-heads whizzing along a very 
distant sky-line. In a shorter space of time than it 
takes me to write it, the whole thing is before you, 
and for the instant it is anything but beautiful. A 
dozen furiously revolving arms — pink, green, 
orange, scarlet, white — whacking the flanks of as 
many straining steeds; a ghmpse of this, and the 
spectacle is over. The spectacle, however, is of 
course an infinitesimally small part of the purpose 
of Epsom and the interest of the Derby. The finer 
vibration resides presumably in having money on 
the affair. 



i84 ENGLISH HOURS 

When the Derby stakes had been carried off by 
a horse of which I confess I am barbarous enough 
to have forgotten the name, I turned my back to 
the running, for all the world as if I too were largely 
''interested," and sought entertainment in looking 
at the crowd. The crowd was very animated; that 
is the most succinct description I can give of it. 
The horses of course had been removed from the 
vehicles, so that the pedestrians were free to surge 
against the wheels and even to a certain extent to 
scale and overrun the carriages. This tendency 
became most pronounced when, as the mid-period 
of the day was reached, the process of lunching 
began to unfold itself and every coach- top to become 
the scene of a picnic. From this moment, at the 
Derby, demoralisation begins. I was in a position 
to observe it, all around me, in the most character- 
istic forms. The whole affair, as regards the con- 
ventional rigidities I spoke of a while since, becomes 
a real degringolade. The shabbier pedestrians bustle 
about the vehicles, staring up at the lucky mortals 
who are perched in a kind of tormentingly near 
empyrean — a region in which dishes of lobster- 
salad are passed about and champagne-corks cleave 
the air hke celestial meteors. There are nigger-min- 
strels and beggars and mountebanks and spangled 
persons on stilts and gipsy matrons, as genuine as 
possible, with glowing Oriental eyes and dropping 



TWO EXCURSIONS 185 

their /^'s; these last offer you for sixpence the pro- 
mise of everything genteel in life except the aspir- 
ate. On a coach drawn up beside the one on which 
I had a place, a party of opulent young men were 
passing from stage to stage of the higher beatitude 
with a zeal which excited my admiration. They 
were accompanied by two or three young ladies of 
the kind that usually shares the choicest pleasures 
of youthful British opulence — young ladies in 
whom nothing has been neglected that can make 
a complexion superlative. The whole party had 
been drinking deep, and one of the young men, a 
pretty lad of twenty, had in an indiscreet moment 
staggered down as best he could to the ground. 
Here his cups proved too many for him, and he col- 
lapsed and rolled over. In plain English he was 
beastly drunk. It was the scene that followed that 
arrested my observation. His companions on the 
top of the coach called dow^n to the people herding 
under the wheels to pick him up and put him away 
inside. These people were the grimiest of the rabble, 
and a couple of men who looked like coal-heavers 
out of work undertook to handle this hapless youth. 
But their task was difficult; it was impossible to 
imagine a young man more drunk. He w^as a mere 
bag of liquor — at once too ponderous and too 
flaccid to be lifted. He lay in a helpless heap under 
the feet of the crowd — the best-intoxicated young 



i86 ENGLISH HOURS 

man in England. His extemporised chamberlains 
took him first in one way and then in another; but 
he was like water in a sieve. The crowd hustled over 
him; every one wanted to see; he was pulled and 
shoved and fumbled. The spectacle had a grotesque 
side, and this it was that seemed to strike the 
fancy of the young man's comrades. They had not 
done lunching, so they were unable to bestow upon 
the accident the whole of that consideration which 
its high comicality deserved. But they did what 
they could. They looked down very often, glass in 
hand, during the half-hour that it went on, and they 
stinted neither their generous, joyous laughter nor 
their appreciative comments. Women are said to 
have no sense of humour; but the young ladies with 
the complexions did liberal justice to the pleasantry 
of the scene. Toward the last indeed their attention 
rather flagged; for even the best joke suffers by 
reiteration, and when you have seen a stupefied 
young man, infinitely bedusted, slip out of the em- 
brace of a couple of clumsy roughs for the twentieth 
time, you may very properly suppose that you have 
arrived at the furthest limits of the ludicrous. 

After the great race had been run I quitted my 
perch and spent the rest of the afternoon in wander- 
ing about the grassy concave I have mentioned. It 
was amusing and picturesque; it was just a huge 
Bohemian encampment. Here also a great number 



TWO EXCURSIONS 187 

of carriages were stationed, freighted in like manner 
with free-handed youths and young ladies with 
gilded hair. These young ladies were almost the 
only representatives of their sex with pretensions 
to elegance; they were often pretty and always ex- 
hilarated. Gentlemen in pairs, mounted on stools, 
habited in fantastic sporting garments and offer- 
ing bets to whomsoever hsted, were a conspicuous 
feature of the scene. It was equally striking that 
they were not preaching in the desert and that they 
found plenty of patrons among the baser sort. I 
returned to my place in time to assist at the rather 
complicated operation of starting for the drive back 
to London. Putting in horses and getting vehicles 
into line seemed in the midst of the general crush 
and entanglement a process not to be facihtated 
even by the most liberal swearing on the part of 
those engaged in it. But little by little we came to 
the end of it ; and as by this time a kind of mellow 
cheerfulness pervaded the upper atmosphere — 
the region of the perpendicular whip — even those 
interruptions most trying to patience were some- 
how made to minister to jollity. It was for people 
below not to get trampled to death or crunched 
between opposing wheel-hubs, but it was all for 
them to manage it. Above, the carnival of ''chaff" 
had set in, and it deepened as the lock of vehicles 
grew denser. As they were all locked together (with 



i88 ENGLISH HOURS 

a comfortable padding of pedestrians at points of 
acutest contact), they contrived somehow to move 
together; so that v^e gradually got away and into 
the road. The four or five hours consumed on the 
road were simply an exchange of repartee, the pro- 
fusely good-humoured savour of which, on the whole, 
was certainly striking. The chaff was not brilliant 
nor subtle nor especially graceful; and here and 
there it was quite too tipsy to be even articulate. But 
as an expression of that unbuttoning of the popular 
straight- jacket of which I spoke awhile since, it 
had its wholesome and even innocent side. It took 
indeed frequently an importunate physical form; 
it sought emphasis in the use of pea-shooters and 
water-squirts. At its best, too, it was extremely low 
and rowdyish. But a stranger even of the most re- 
fined tastes might be glad to have a glimpse of this 
popular revel, for it would make him feel that he was 
learning something more about the Enghsh people. 
It would give a meaning to the old description of 
England as merry. It would remind him that the 
natives of that country are subject to some of the 
lighter of the human impulses, and that the decent, 
dusky vistas of the London residential streets — 
those discreet creations of which Thackeray's 
Baker Street is the type — are not a complete sym- 
bol of the comphcated race that erected them. 



TWO EXCURSIONS 189 

II 

It seemed to me such a piece of good fortune to 
have been asked down to Oxford at Commemoration 
by a gentleman implicated in the remarkable cere- 
mony which goes on under that name, who kindly 
offered me the hospitality of his college, that I 
scarcely stayed even to thank him — I simply went 
and awaited him. I had had a glimpse of Oxford in 
former years, but I had never slept in a low-browed 
room looking out on a grassy quadrangle and oppo- 
site a mediaeval clock-tower. This satisfaction was 
vouchsafed me on the night of my arrival; I was 
made free of the rooms of an absent undergraduate. 
I sat in his deep armchairs ; I burned his candles and 
read his books, and I hereby thank him as effusively 
as possible. Before going to bed I took a turn 
through the streets and renewed in the silent dark- 
ness that impression of the charm imparted to them 
by the quiet college-fronts which I had gathered in 
former years. The college-fronts were now quieter 
than ever, the streets were empty, and the old 
scholastic city was sleeping in the warm starlight. 
The undergraduates had retired in large numbers, 
encouraged in this impulse by the collegiate author- 
ities, who deprecate their presence at Commemora- 
tion. However many young gownsmen may be sent 
away, there yet always remain a collection sufficient 



I90 ENGLISH HOURS 

to represent the sound of many voices. There can be 
no better indication of the resources of Oxford in 
a spectacular way than this fact that the first step 
toward preparing an impressive ceremony is to get 
rid of as many as possible of the actors. 

In the morning I breakfasted with a young 
American who, in common with a number of his 
countrymen, had come hither to seek stimulus for 
a finer strain of study. I know not whether he 
would have reckoned as such stimulus the conversa- 
tion of a couple of those ingenuous youths, sons of 
the soil, whose society I always find charming; but 
it added, from my own point of view, in respect to the 
place, to the element of intensity of character. After 
the entertainment was over, I repaired, in company 
with a crowd of ladies and elderly people, inter- 
spersed with gownsmen, to the hoary rotunda of the 
Sheldonian theatre, which every visitor to Oxford 
will remember from its curious cincture of clumsily 
carven heads of warriors and sages perched upon 
stone posts. The interior of this edifice is the scene 
of the classic hooting, stamping, and cat-calhng by 
which the undergraduates confer the last consecra- 
tion upon the distinguished gentlemen who come 
up for the honorary degree of D.C.L. It is with 
the design of attenuating as much as possible this 
volume of sound that the heads of colleges, on the 
close of the term, a few days before Commemora- 



TWO EXCURSIONS 191 

tion, speed their too demonstrative disciples upon 
the homeward way. As I have already hinted, how- 
ever, the contingent of irreverence was on this oc- 
casion quite large enough to preserve the type of the 
racket. This made the scene a very singular one. 
An American of course, with his fondness for anti- 
quity, his rehsh for picturesqueness, his "emotional" 
attitude at historic shrines, takes Oxford much more 
seriously than its sometimes unwilling famihars can 
be expected to do. These people are not always 
upon the high horse; they are not always in a state 
of fine vibration. Nevertheless there is a certain 
maximum of disaccord with their beautiful circum- 
stances which the ecstatic outsider vaguely expects 
them not to transcend. No effort of the intellect 
beforehand would enable him to imagine one of 
those silver-grey temples of learning converted into 
a semblance of the Bowery Theatre when the Bowery 
Theatre is being trifled with. 

The Sheldonian edifice, like everything at Ox- 
ford, is more or less monumental. There is a double 
tier of galleries, with sculptured pulpits protruding 
from them; there are full-length portraits of kings 
and worthies ; there is a general air of antiquity and 
dignity, which, on the occasion of which I speak, 
was enhanced by the presence of certain ancient 
scholars seated in crimson robes in high-backed 
chairs. Formerly, I believe, the undergraduates 



192 ENGLISH HOURS 

were placed apart — packed together in a corner of 
one of the galleries. But now they are scattered 
among the general spectators, a large number of 
whom are ladies. They muster in especial force, 
however, on the floor of the theatre, which has been 
cleared of its benches. Here the dense mass is at 
last severed in twain by the entrance of the prospect- 
ive D.C.L.'s walking in single file, clad in crimson 
gowns, preceded by mace-bearers and accompanied 
by the Regius professor of Civil Law, who presents 
them individually to the Vice- Chancellor of the 
University, in a Latin speech which is of course a 
glowing eulogy. The five gentlemen to whom this 
distinction had been offered in 1877 were not among 
those whom fame has trumpeted most loudly; but 
there was something " as pretty as a picture" in their 
standing in their honourable robes, with heads mod- 
estly bent, while the orator, as effectively draped, 
recited their titles sonorously to the venerable dig- 
nitary in the high-backed chair. Each of them, when 
the little speech is ended, ascends the steps leading 
to the chair; the Vice- Chancellor bends forward 
and shakes his hand, and the new D.C.L. goes and 
sits in the blushing row of his fellow doctors. The 
impressiveness of all this is much diminished by the 
boisterous conduct of the *' students," who super- 
abound in extravagant applause, in impertinent 
interrogation, and in lively disparagement of the 



TWO EXCURSIONS 193 

orator's Latinity. Of the scene that precedes the 
episode I have just described I have given no ac- 
count; vivid portrayal of it is not easy. Like the 
return from the Derby it is a carnival of "chaff;" 
and it is a singular fact that the scholastic festival 
should have forcibly reminded me of the great popu- 
lar "lark." In each case it is the same race enjoying 
a certain definitely chartered hcense; in the young 
votaries of a liberal education and the London rab- 
ble on the Epsom road it is the same perfect good 
humour, the same muscular jocosity. 

After the presentation of the doctors came a series 
of those collegiate exercises which have a generic 
resemblance all the v^orld over: a reading of Latin 
verses and English essays, a spouting of prize poems 
and Greek paraphrases. The prize poem alone was 
somewhat attentively listened to; the other things 
were received with an infinite variety of critical 
ejaculation. But after all, I reflected, as the cere- 
mony drew to a close, the romping element is more 
characteristic than it seems; it is at bottom only 
another expression of the venerable and historic 
side of Oxford. It is tolerated because it is tradi- 
tional; it is possible because it is classical. Looked 
at in this light it became romantically continuous 
with the human past that everything else referred to. 

I was not obliged to find ingenious pretexts for 
thinking well of another ceremony of which I was 



194 ENGLISH HOURS 

witness after we adjourned from the Sheldonian 
theatre. This was a lunch-party at the particular 
college in which I should find it the highest privilege 
to reside and which I may not further specify. Per- 
haps indeed I may go so far as to say that the reason 
for my dreaming of this privilege is that it is deemed 
by persons of a reforming turn the best-appointed 
abuse in a nest of abuses. A commission for the 
f expurgation of the universities has lately been 
' appointed by Parliament to look into it — a com- 
mission armed with a gigantic broom, which is to 
I sweep away all the fine old ivied and cobwebbed 
' improprieties. Pending these righteous changes, one 
would like while one is about it — about, that is, this 
1 business of admiring Oxford — to attach one's self 
to the abuse, to bury one's nostrils in the rose before 
it is plucked. At the college in question there are no 
undergraduates. I found it agreeable to reflect that 
those grey- green cloisters had sent no delegates to 
the slangy congregation I had just quitted. This 
dehghtful spot exists for the satisfaction of a small 
\ society of Fellows who, having no dreary instruction 
to administer, no noisy hobbledehoys to govern, no 
obligations but toward their own culture, no care 
save for learning as learning and truth as truth, are 
presumably the happiest and most charming people 
in the world. The party invited to lunch assembled 
first in the library of the college, a cool, grey hall, 



TWO EXCURSIONS 195 

of very great length and height, with vast wall-spaces 
of rich-looking book-titles and statues of noble 
scholars set in the midst. Had the charming Fel- 
lows ever anything more disagreeable to do than to 
finger these precious volumes and then to stroll about 
together in the grassy courts, in learned comradeship, 
discussing their precious contents ? Nothing, appar- 
ently, unless it were to give a lunch at Commemora- 
tion in the dining-hall of the college. When lunch 
was ready there was a very pretty procession to go 
to it. Learned gentlemen in crimson gowns, ladies 
in bright finery, paired slowly off and marched in a 
stately diagonal across the fine, smooth lawn of the 
quadrangle, in a corner of which they passed through 
a hospitable door. But here we cross the threshold 
of privacy; I remained on the further side of it 
during the rest of the day. But I brought back with 
me certain memories, of which, if I were not at the 
end of my space, I should attempt a discreet adum- 
bration : memories of a fete champetre in the beauti- 
ful gardens of one of the other colleges — charming 
lawns and spreading trees, music of Grenadier 
Guards, ices in striped marquees, mild flirtation of 
youthful gownsmen and bemuslined maidens ; mem- 
ories, too, of quiet dinner in common-room, a de- 
corous, excellent repast; old portraits on the walls 
and great windows open upon the ancient court, 
where the afternoon light was fading in the stillness; 



196 



ENGLISH HOURS 



superior talk upon current topics, and over all the 
peculiar air of Oxford — the air of liberty to care 
for the things of the mind assured and secured by 
machinery which is in itself a satisfaction to sense. 




.<"L^^L*i!*-* 




IN WARWICKSHIRE 



THERE is no better way to plunge in medias 
res, for the stranger who wishes to know 
something of England, than to spend a fortnight in 
Warwickshire. It is the core and centre of the Eng- 
lish world ; midmost England, unmitigated England. 
The place has taught me a great many English 
secrets; I have been interviewing the genius of 
pastoral Britain. From a charming lawn — a lawn 
delicious to one's sentient boot-sole — I looked with- 
out obstruction at a sombre, soft, romantic mass 



198 ENGLISH HOURS 

whose outline was blurred by mantling ivy. It made 
a perfect picture, and in the foreground the great 
trees overarched their boughs, from right and left, 
so as to give it a majestic frame. This interesting 
object was the castle of Kenilworth. It was within 
distance of an easy walk, but one hardly thought 
of walking to it, any more than one would have 
thought of walking to a purple-shadowed tower in 
the background of a Berghem or a Claude. Here 
were purple shadows and slowly-shifting lights, 
with a soft-hued, bosky country for the middle 
distance. 

Of course, however, I did walk over to the castle; 
and of course the walk led me through leafy lanes 
and beside the hedgerows that make a tangled screen 
for large lawn-like meadows. Of course too, I am 
bound to add, there was a row of ancient pedlars out- 
side the castle-wall, hawking twopenny pamphlets 
and photographs. Of course, equally, at the foot 
of the grassy mound on which the ruin stands were 
half a dozen public houses and, always of course, 
half a dozen beery vagrants sprawling on the grass 
in the moist sunshine. There was the usual respect- 
able young woman to open the castle-gate and to 
receive the usual sixpenny fee. There were the 
usual squares of printed cardboard, suspended upon 
venerable surfaces, with further enumeration of two- 
pence, threepence, fourpence. I do not allude to 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 199 

these things querulously, for Kenilworth is a very 
tame lion — a lion that, in former years, I had 
stroked more than once. I remember perfectly my 
first visit to this romantic spot; how I chanced upon 
a picnic; how I stumbled over beer-bottles; how 
the very echoes of the beautiful ruin seemed to have 
dropped all their /z's. That was a sultry afternoon; 
I allowed my spirits to sink and I came away hang- 
ing my head. This was a beautiful fresh morning, 
and in the interval I had grown philosophic. I had 
learned that, with regard to most romantic sites in 
England, there is a constant cockneyfication with 
which you must make your account. There are 
always people on the field before you, and there is 
generally something being drunk on the premises. 

I hoped, on the occasion of which I am now speak- 
ing, that the attack would not be acute, and indeed 
for the first five minutes I flattered myself that this 
was the case. In the beautiful grassy court of the 
castle, on my entrance, there were not more than 
eight or ten fellow intruders. There were a couple 
of old ladies on a bench, eating something out of 
a newspaper; there was a dissenting minister, also 
on a bench, reading the guide-book aloud to his 
wife and sister-in-law; there were three or four chil- 
dren pushing each other up and down the turfy hill- 
ocks. This was sweet seclusion indeed ; and I got a 
capital start with the various noble square- windowed 



200 ENGLISH HOURS 

fragments of the stately pile. They are extremely 
majestic, with their even, pale- red colour, their deep- 
green drapery, their princely vastness of scale. But 
presently the tranquil ruin began to swarm like a 
startled hive. There were plenty of people, if they 
chose to show themselves. They emerged from 
crumbling doorways and gaping chambers with the 
best conscience in the world; but I know not, after 
all, why I should bear them a grudge, for they gave 
me a pretext for wandering about in search of a quiet 
point of view. I cannot say that I found my point of 
view, but in looking for it I saw the castle, which is 
certainly an admirable ruin. And when the respect- 
able young woman had let me out of the gate again, 
and I had shaken my head at the civil-spoken ped- 
lars who form a little avenue for the arriving and 
departing visitor, I found it in my good nature to 
linger a moment on the trodden, grassy slope, and 
to think that in spite of the hawkers, the paupers, 
and the beer- shops, there was still a good deal of old 
England in the scene. I say in spite of these things, 
but it may have been, in some degree, because of 
them. Who shall resolve into its component parts 
any impression of this richly complex English world, 
where the present is always seen, as it were, in pro- 
file, and the past presents a full face ? At all events 
the solid red castle rose behind me, towering above 
its small old ladies and its investigating parsons; 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 201 

before me, across the patch of common, was a row 
of ancient cottages, black-timbered, red-gabled, 
pictorial, which evidently had a memory of the 
castle in its better days. A quaintish village strag- 
gled away on the right, and on the left the dark, fat 
meadows were lighted up with misty sun-spots and 
browsing sheep. I looked about for the village 
stocks; I was ready to take the modern vagrants for 
Shakespearean clowns; and I was on the point of 
going into one of the ale-houses to ask Mrs. Quickly 
for a cup of sack. 

I began these remarks, however, with no inten- 
tion of talking about the celebrated curiosities in 
w^hich this region abounds, but with a design rather 
of noting a few impressions of some of the shyer and 
more elusive ornaments of the show. Stratford of 
course is a very sacred place, but I prefer to say a 
word, for instance, about a charming old rectory 
a good many miles distant, and to mention the 
pleasant picture it made, of a summer afternoon, 
during a domestic festival. These are the happiest of 
a stranger's memories of Enghsh hfe, and he feels 
that he need make no apology for hfting the corner of 
the curtain. I drove through the leafy lanes I spoke 
of just now, and peeped over the hedges into fields 
where the yellow harvest stood waiting. In some 
places they were already shorn, and, while the Hght 
began to redden in the west and to make a horizon- 



202 ENGLISH HOURS 

tal glow behind the dense wayside foHage, the 
gleaners here and there came brushing through gaps 
in the hedges with enormous sheaves upon their 
shoulders. The rectory was an ancient, gabled 
building, of pale red brick with facings of white 
stone and creepers that wrapped it up. It dates, I 
imagine, from the early Hanoverian time ; and as it 
stood there upon its cushiony lawn and among its 
ordered gardens, cheek to cheek with its little Nor- 
man church, it seemed to me the model of a quiet, 
spacious, easy English home. The cushiony lawn, 
as I have called it, stretched away to the edge of 
a brook, and afforded to a number of very amiable 
people an opportunity of playing lawn-tennis. There 
were half a dozen games going forward at once, and 
at each of them a great many "nice girls," as they 
say in England, were distinguishing themselves. 
These young ladies kept the ball going with an 
agility worthy of the sisters and sweethearts of a 
race of cricketers, and gave me a chance to admire 
their flexibility of figure and their freedom of action. 
When they came back to the house, after the games, 
flushed a little and a little dishevelled, they might 
have passed for the attendant nymphs of Diana 
flocking in from the chase. There had, indeed, been 
a chance for them to wear the quiver, a target for 
archery being erected on the lawn. I remembered 
George EHot's Gwendolen and waited to see her 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 203 

step out of the muslin group ; but she was not forth- 
coming, and it was plain that if lawn-tennis had been 
invented in Gwendolen's day this young lady would 
have captivated Mr. Grandcourt by her exploits 
with the racket. She certainly would have been a 
mistress of the game; and, if the suggestion be not 
too gross, the alertness she would have learned from 
it might have proved an inducement to her boxing 
the ears of the insupportable Deronda. 

After a while it grew too dark for lawn-tennis; 
but while the twilight was still mildly brilliant I 
wandered away, out of the grounds of the charming 
parsonage, and turned into the little churchyard 
beside it. The small weather-worn, rust- coloured 
church had an appearance of high antiquity ; there 
were some curious Norman windows in the apse. 
Unfortunately I could not get inside; I could only 
glance into the open door across the interval of an 
old-timbered, heavy-hooded, padlocked porch. But 
the sweetest evening stillness hung over the place, 
and the sunset was red behind a dark row of rook- 
haunted elms. The stillness seemed the greater 
because three or four rustic children were playing, 
with httle soft cries, among the crooked, deep-buried 
grave-stones. One poor little girl, who seemed de- 
formed, had climbed some steps that served as a 
pedestal for a tall, mediaeval-looking cross. She sat 
perched there and stared at me through the gloam- 



204 ENGLISH HOURS 

ing. This was the heart of England, unmistakeably ; 
it might have been the very pivot of the wheel on 
which her fortune revolves. One need not be a rabid 
Anghcan to be extremely sensible of the charm of 
an English country church — and indeed of some 
of the features of an English rural Sunday. In Lon- 
don there is a certain flatness in the observance of 
this festival; but in the country some of the cere- 
monies that accompany it have an indefinable har- 
mony with an ancient, pastoral landscape. I made 
this reflection on an occasion that is still very fresh in 
my memory. I said to myself that the walk to church 
from a beautiful country-house, of a lovely summer 
afternoon, may be the prettiest possible adventure. 
The house stands perched upon a pedestal of rock 
and looks down from its windows and terraces upon 
a shadier spot in the wooded meadows, of which the 
blunted tip of a spire explains the character. A little 
company of people, whose costume denotes the 
highest pitch of civihsation, winds down through the 
blooming gardens, passes out of a couple of small 
gates, and reaches the footpath in the fields. This is 
especially what takes the fancy of the sympathetic 
stranger; the level, deep-green meadows, studded 
here and there with a sturdy oak; the denser grassi- 
ness of the footpath, the hly-sheeted pool beside 
which it passes, the rustic stiles, where he stops and 
looks back at the great house and its wooded back- 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 205 

ground. It is in the highest degree probable that he 
has the privilege of walking with a pretty girl, and it 
is morally certain that he thinks a pretty English 
girl the very type of the maddening magic of youth. 
He knows that she does n't know how lovely is this 
walk of theirs; she has been taking it — or taking 
another quite as good — any time these twenty years. 
But her want of immediate inteUigence only makes 
her the more a part of his dehcate entertainment. 
The latter continues unbroken while they reach the 
little churchyard and pass up to the ancient porch, 
round which the rosy rustics are standing, decently 
and deferentially, to watch the arrival of the smarter 
contingent. This party takes its place in a great 
square pew, as large as a small room, and with seats 
all round, and while he listens to the respectable 
intonings the sympathetic stranger reads over the 
inscriptions on the mural tablets before him, all to 
the honour of the earlier bearers of a name which 
is, for himself, a symbol of hospitality. 

When I came back to the parsonage the enter- 
tainment had been transferred to the interior, and 
I had occasion to admire the maidenly vigour of all 
the nice girls who, after playing lawn-tennis all the 
afternoon, were modestly expecting to dance all the 
evening. And in regard to this it is not impertinent 
to say that from almost any group of young English 
creatures of this order — though preferably from 



2o6 ENGLISH HOURS 

such as have passed their Hves in quiet country 
homes — an American receives a dehghtful impres- 
sion of something that he may describe as an inti- 
mate salubrity. He notices face after face in which 
this rosy absence of a morbid strain — this simple, 
natural, affectionate development — amounts to 
positive beauty. If the young lady have no other 
beauty the air I speak of is a charm in itself; but 
w^hen it is united, as it so often is, to real perfection 
of feature and colour the result is the most delightful 
thing in nature. It makes the highest type of English 
beauty, and to my sense there is nothing so satisfy- 
ingly high as that. Not long since I heard a clever 
foreigner indulge, in conversation with an English 
lady, — a very wise and liberal woman, — in a little 
lightly restrictive criticism of her countrywomen. 
"It is possible," she answered, in regard to one of 
his objections; "but such as they are, they are in- 
expressibly dear to their husbands." This is doubt- 
less true of good wives all over the world; but I felt, 
as I listened to these words of my friend, that there 
is often something in an English girl-face which gives 
it an extra touch of justesse. Such as the woman 
is, she has here, more than elsewhere, the look of 
being completely and profoundly, without reserva- 
tions for other uses, at the service of the man she 
loves. This look, after one has been a w^hile in 
England, comes to seem so much a proper and 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 207 

indispensable part of a ''nice" face, that the absence 
of it appears a sign of irritabihty or of shallowness. 
Latent responsiveness to the manly appeal — that 
is what it means; which one must take as a very 
comfortable meaning. 

As for the prettiness, I cannot forbear, in the 
face of a fresh reminiscence, to give it another word. 
And yet in regard to prettiness what do words avail ? 
This was what I asked myself the other day as 
I looked at a young girl who stood in an old oaken 
parlour, the rugged panels of which made a back- 
ground for her lovely head, in simple conversation 
with a handsome lad. I said to myself that the faces 
of the English young have often a perfect charm, 
but that this same charm is too soft and shy a thing 
to talk about. The face of this fair creature had a 
pure oval, and her clear brown eyes a quiet warmth. 
Her complexion was as bright as a sunbeam after 
rain, and she smiled in a way that made any other 
way of smiling than that seem a shallow grimace — 
a mere creaking of the facial muscles. The young 
man stood facing her, slowly scratching his thigh 
and shifting from one foot to the other. He was tall 
and straight, and so sun-burned that his fair hair 
was lighter than his complexion. He had honest, 
stupid blue eyes, and a simple smile that showed 
handsome teeth. He had the look of a gentleman. 
Presently I heard what they were saying. "I sup- 



2o8 ENGLISH HOURS 

pose it's pretty big," said the beautiful young girl. 
"Yes; it's pretty big," said the handsome young 
man. "It's nicer when they are big," said his inter- 
locutress. The young man looked at her, and at 
everything in general, with his slowly apprehending 
blue eye, and for some time no further remark was 
made. " It draws ten feet of water," he at last went 
on. "How much water is there?" said the young 
girl. She spoke in a charming voice. "There are 
thirty feet of water," said the young man. "Oh, 
that's enough," rejoined the damsel. I had had 
an idea they were flirting, and perhaps indeed that 
is the way it is done. It was an ancient room and 
extremely delightful; everything was polished over 
with the brownness of centuries. The chimney-piece 
was carved a foot thick, and the windows bore, in 
coloured glass, the quarterings of ancestral couples. 
These had stopped two hundred years before ; there 
was nothing newer than that date. Outside the 
windows was a deep, broad moat, which washed 
the base of grey walls — grey walls spotted over 
with the most delicate yellow lichens. 

In such a region as this mellow conservative War- 
wickshire an appreciative American finds the small 
things quite as suggestive as the great. Everything 
indeed is suggestive, and impressions are constantly 
melting into each other and doing their work before 
he has had time to ask them whence they came. He 




STRATFORD-ON-AVON CHURCH 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 209 

can scarce go into a cottage muffled in plants, to see 
a genial gentlewoman and a "nice girl," without 
being reminded forsooth of the "Small House at 
AlHngton." Why of the "Small House at Ailing- 
ton?" There is a larger house to which the ladies 
come up to dine; but that is surely an insufficient 
reason. That the ladies are charming — even that 
is not reason enough ; for there have been other nice 
girls in the world than Lily Dale and other mild 
matrons than her mamma. Reminded, however, he 
is — especially when he goes out upon the lawn. Of 
course there is lawn-tennis, and it seems all ready 
for Mr. Crosbie to come and take a racquet. This is 
a small example of the way in which in the presence 
of English hfe the imagination must be constantly at 
play on the part of members of a race in whom it 
has necessarily been trained to do extra service. In 
driving and walking, in looking and listening, every- 
thing affected one as in some degree or other charac- 
teristic of a rich, powerful, old-fashioned society. 
One had no need of being told that this is a con- 
servative county; the fact seemed written in the 
hedgerows and in the verdant acres behind them. 
Of course the owners of these things were conserva- 
tive; of course they were stubbornly unwilhng to 
see the harmonious edifice of their constituted, con- 
venient world the least bit shaken. I had a feehng, 
as I went about, that I should find some very ancient 



2IO ENGLISH HOURS 

and curiorus opinions still comfortably domiciled in 
the fine old houses whose clustered gables and chim- 
neys appeared here and there, at a distance, above 
their ornamental woods. Imperturbable British 
Toryism, viewed in this vague and conjectural 
fashion — across the fields and behind the oaks and 
beeches — is by no means a thing the irresponsible 
stranger would wish away ; it deepens the very colour 
of the air; it may be said to be the style of the 
landscape. I got a sort of constructive sense of its 
presence in the picturesque old towns of Coventry 
and Warwick, which appear to be filled with those 
institutions — chiefly of an eleemosynary order — 
that make the undoubting more undoubting still. 
There are ancient charities in these places — hospit- 
als, almshouses, asylums, infant-schools — so quaint 
and venerable that they almost make the existence 
of respectful dependence a delectable and satisfying 
thought. In Coventry in especial, I believe, these 
pious foundations are so numerous as fairly to place 
a premium upon personal woe. Invidious reflections 
apart, however, there are few things that speak more 
quaintly and suggestively of the old England that an 
American loves than these clumsy little monuments 
of ancient benevolence. Such an institution as 
Leicester's Hospital at Warwick seems indeed to 
exist primarily for the sake of its spectacular effect 
upon the American tourists, who, with the dozen 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 211 

rheumatic old soldiers maintained in affluence there, 
constitute its principal clientele. 

The American tourist usually comes straight to 
this quarter of England — chiefly for the purpose of 
paying his respects to the birthplace of Shakespeare. 
Being here, he comes to Warwick to see the castle; 
and being at Warwick, he comes to see the odd little 
theatrical-looking refuge for superannuated warriors 
which lurks in the shadow of one of the old gate- 
towers. Every one will remember Hawthorne's 
account of the place, which has left no touch of 
charming taste to be added to any reference to it. 
The hospital struck me as a httle museum kept up 
for the amusement and confusion of those enquiring 
Occidentals who are used to seeing charity more 
dryly and practically administered. The old hos- 
pitallers — I am not sure, after all, whether they are 
necessarily soldiers, but some of them happen to be 
— are at once the curiosities and the keepers. They 
sit on benches outside of their door, at the receipt of 
custom, all neatly brushed and darned and ready 
to do you the honours. They are only twelve in 
number, but their picturesque dwelHng, perched 
upon the old city rampart and full of dusky httle 
courts, cross-timbered gable-ends and deeply sunken 
lattices, seems a wonderfully elaborate piece of 
machinery for its humble purpose. Each of the old 
gentlemen must be provided with a wife or "house- 



212 ENGLISH HOURS 

keeper;" each of them has a dusky parlour of his 
own, and they pass their latter days in their scoured 
and polished little refuge as softly and honourably 
as a company of retired lawgivers or pensioned 
soothsayers. 

At Coventry I went to see a couple of old 
charities of a similar pattern — places with black- 
timbered fronts, httle clean-swept courts and Eliz- 
abethan windows. One of them was a romantic 
residence for a handful of old women, who sat, each 
of them, in a cosy little bower, in a sort of mediae- 
val darkness; the other was a school for little boys 
of humble origin, and this last establishment was 
charming. I found the little boys playing at "top" 
in a gravelled court, in front of the prettiest old build- 
ing of tender- coloured stucco and painted timber, 
ornamented with two delicate httle galleries and 
a fantastic porch. They were dressed in small blue 
tunics and odd caps, like those worn by sailors, but, 
if I remember rightly, with little yellow tags affixed. 
I was able to wander at my pleasure all over 
the establishment; there was no sign of pastor or 
master anywhere; nothing but the little yellow- 
headed boys playing before the ancient house and 
practising most correctly the Warwickshire accent. 
I went indoors and looked at a fine old oaken stair- 
case ; I even ascended it and walked along a gallery 
and peeped into a dormitory at a row of very short 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 213 

beds; and then I came down and sat for five min- 
utes on a bench hardly wider than the top rail of 
a fence, in a little, cold, dim refectory where there 
was not a crumb to be seen, nor any lingering odour 
of bygone repasts to be perceived. And yet I won- 
dered how it was that the sense of many generations 
of boyish feeders seemed to abide there. It came, 
I suppose, from the very bareness and, if I may be 
allowed the expression, the clean-licked aspect of the 
place, which wore the appearance of the famous 
platter of Jack Sprat and his wife. 

Inevitably, of course, the sentimental tourist has 
a great deal to say to himself about this being 
Shakespeare's county — about these densely grassed 
meadows and parks having been, to his musing 
eyes, the normal landscape, the green picture of 
the world. In Shakespeare's day, doubtless, the coat 
of nature was far from being so prettily trimmed 
as it is now; but there is one place, nevertheless, 
which, as he passes it in the summer twilight, the 
traveller does his best to beheve unaltered. I allude 
of course to Charlecote park, whose venerable verd- 
ure seems a survival from an earlier England and 
whose innumerable acres, stretching away, in the 
early e^'ening, to vaguely seen Tudor walls, lie there 
like the backward years receding to the age of Ehza- 
beth. It was, however, no part of my design in these 
remarks to pause before so thickly besieged a shrine 



214 ENGLISH HOURS 

as this ; and if I were to allude to Stratford it would 
not be in connection with the fact that Shakespeare 
planted there, to grow for ever, the torment of his 
unguessed riddle. It would be rather to speak of 
a delightful old house, near the Avon, which struck 
me as the ideal home for a Shakespearean scholar, 
or indeed for any passionate lover of the poet. Here, 
with books and memories and the recurring reflec- 
tion that he had taken his daily walk across the 
bridge at which you look from your windows straight 
down an avenue of fine old trees, with an ever-closed 
gate at the end of them and a carpet of turf stretched 
over the decent drive — here, I say, with old brown 
wainscotted chambers to live in, old polished door- 
steps to lead you from one to the other, deep window- 
seats to sit in, with a play in your lap, here a person 
for whom the cares of life should have resolved 
themselves into a care for the greatest genius who 
has represented and ornamented life might find a 
very congruous asylum. Or, speaking a little wider 
of the mark, the charming, rambling, low-gabled, 
many-staired, much-panelled mansion would be a 
very agreeable home for any person of taste who 
should prefer an old house to a new. I find I am 
talking about it quite like an auctioneer; but what 
I chiefly had at heart was to commemorate the fact 
that I had lunched there and, while I lunched, kept 
saying to myself that there is nothing in the world 




\.-1^1 






>s^mA' 



CHARLCOTE PARK 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 215 

so delightful as the happy accidents of old English 
houses. 

And yet that same day, on the edge of the Avon, 
I found it in me to say that a new house too may 
be a very charming affair. But I must add that the 
nev^ house I speak of had really such exceptional 
advantages that it could not fairly be placed in the 
scale. Besides, was it new after all ? It must have 
been, and yet one's impression there was all of a 
kind of silvered antiquity. The place stood upon 
a decent Stratford road, from which it looked usual 
enough ; but when, after sitting a while in a charm- 
ing modern drawing-room, one stepped thought- 
lessly through an open window upon a verandah, 
one found that the horizon of the morning call had 
been wonderfully widened. I will not pretend to 
detail all I saw after I stepped off the verandah; 
suffice it that the spire and chancel of the beautiful 
old church in which Shakespeare is buried, with the 
Avon sweeping its base, were one of the elements of 
the vision. Then there were the smoothest lawns 
in the world stretching down to the edge of this 
liquid slowness and making, where the water 
touched them, a Hne as even as the rim of a cham- 
pagne-glass — a verge near which you inevitably 
lingered to see the spire and the chancel (the church 
was close at hand) among the well-grouped trees, 
and look for their reflection in the river. The place 



2i6 ENGLISH HOURS 

was a garden of delight ; it was a stage set for one of 
Shakespeare's comedies — for "TAvelfth Night" or 
"Much Ado." Just across the river was a level 
meadow, which rivalled the lawn on which I stood, 
and this meadow seemed only the more essentially 
a part of the scene by reason of the voluminous 
sheep that were grazing on it. These sheep were 
by no means mere edible mutton; they were poetic, 
historic, romantic sheep; they were not there for 
their weight or their wool, they were there for their 
presence and their compositional value, and they 
visibly knew it. And yet, knowing as they were, I 
doubt whether the wisest old ram of the flock could 
have told me how to explain why it was that this 
happy mixture of lawn and river and mirrored spire 
and blooming garden seemed to me for a quarter 
of an hour the richest corner of England. 

If Warwickshire is Shakespeare's country, I found 
myself not dodging the consciousness that it is also 
George Eliot's. The author of "Adam Bede" and 
" Middlemarch " has called the rural background 
of those admirable fictions by another name, but 
I believe it long ago ceased to be a secret that her 
native Warwickshire had been in her intention. The 
stranger who treads its eternal stretched velvet re- 
cognises at every turn the elements of George Ehot's 
novels — especially when he carries himself back 
in imagination to the Warwickshire of forty years 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 217 

ago. He says to himself that it would be impossible 
to conceive anything — anything equally rural — 
more sturdily central, more densely definite. It was 
in one of the old nestling farmhouses, beyond a 
hundred hedgerows, that Hetty Sorrel smiled into 
her milk-pans as if she were looking for a reflection 
of her pretty face; it was at the end of one of the 
leafy-pillared avenues that poor Mrs. Casaubon 
paced up and down with her many questions. The 
country suggests in especial both the social and 
the natural scenery of " Middlemarch." There 
must be many a genially perverse old Mr. Brooke 
there yet, and whether there are many Dorotheas 
or not, there must be many a well-featured and 
well- acred young country gentleman, of the pattern 
of Sir James Chettam, who, as he rides along the 
leafy lanes, softly cudgels his brain to know why 
a clever girl should n't wish to marry him. But I 
doubt whether there be many Dorotheas, and I 
suspect that the Sir James Chettams of the county 
are not often pushed to that intensity of meditation. 
You feel, however, that George Eliot could not have 
placed her heroine in a local medium better fitted 
to throw her fine impatience into relief — a com- 
munity more Hkely to be startled and perplexed by 
a questioning attitude on the part of a well-housed 
and well-fed young gentlewoman. 

Among the edifying days that I spent in these 



2i8 ENGLISH HOURS 

neighbourhoods there is one in especial of which 
I should like to give a detailed account. But I find 
on consulting my memory that the details have 
melted away into the single deep impression of a 
perfect ripeness of civilisation. It was a long excur- 
sion, by rail and by carriage, for the purpose of seeing 
three extremely interesting old country-houses. Our 
errand led us, in the first place, into Oxfordshire, 
through the ancient market-town of Banbury, where 
of course we made a point of looking out for the 
Cross referred to in the famous nursery- rhyme. 
It stood there in the most natural manner — though 
I am afraid it has been ''done up" — with various 
antique gables around it, from one of whose exigu- 
ous windows the young person appealed to in the 
rhyme may have looked at the old woman as she 
rode, and heard the music of her bells. The houses 
we went to see have not a national reputation ; they 
are simply interwoven figures in the rich pattern 
of the Midlands. They have indeed a local renown, 
but they are not thought of as unexampled, still 
less as abnormal, and the stranger has a feeling 
that his surprises and ecstasies are held to betray 
the existence, on his part, of a blank background. 
Such places, to a Warwickshire mind of good habits, 
must appear the pillars and props of a heaven- 
appointed order of things; and accordingly, in 
a land on which heaven smiles, they are as natural 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 219 

as the geology of the county or the supply of mutton. 
But nothing could well give a stranger a stronger 
impression of the wealth of England in such matters 

— of the interminable Hst of her territorial homes 

— than this fact that the so eminent specimens I 
speak of should have but a limited fame, should not 
be lions of the first magnitude. Of one of them, the 
finest in the group, one of my companions, who 
lived but twenty miles away, had never even heard. 
Such a place was not thought a subject for local 
swagger. Its peers and mates are scattered all over 
the country; half of them are not even mentioned in 
the county guidebooks. You stumble upon them in 
a drive or a walk. You catch a glimpse of an ivied 
front at some midmost point of wide acres, and, 
taking your way, by leave of a serious old woman at 
a lodge-gate, along an overarching avenue, you find 
yourself introduced to an edifice so human-looking 
in its beauty that it seems for the occasion fairly to 
reconcile art and morality. 

To Broughton Castle, the first seen in this beauti- 
ful group, I must do no more than allude; but this 
is not because I failed to think it, as I think every 
house I see, the most delightful habitation in Eng- 
land. It hes rather low, and its woods and pastures 
slope down to it; it has a deep, clear moat all round 
it, spanned by a bridge that passes under a charming 
old gate-tower, and nothing can be sweeter than to 



220 ENGLISH HOURS 

see its clustered walls of yellow-brown stone so 
sharply islanded while its gardens bloom on the 
other side of the water. Like several other houses 
in this part of the country, Broughton Castle played 
a part (on the Parliamentary side) in the civil wars, 
and not the least interesting features of its beautiful 
interior are the several mementoes of Cromwell's 
station there. It was within a moderate drive of this 
place that in 1642 the battle of Edgehill was fought 
— the first great battle of the war — and gained 
by neither party. We went to see the battlefield, 
where an ancient tower and an artificial ruin (of all 
things in the world) have been erected for the enter- 
tainment of convivial visitors. These ornaments are 
perched upon the edge of a slope which commands 
a view of the exact scene of the contest, upwards of a 
mile away. I looked in the direction indicated and 
saw misty meadows a little greener perhaps than 
usual and colonnades of elms a trifle denser. After 
this we paid our respects to another old house which 
is full of memories and suggestions of that most 
dramatic period of English history. But of Comp- 
ton Wyniates (the name of this seat of enchantment) 
I despair of giving any coherent or adequate ac- 
count. It belongs to the Marquis of Northampton, 
and it stands empty all the year round. It sits on 
the grass at the bottom of a wooded hollow, and the 
glades of a superb old park go wandering upward 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 221 

away from it. When I came out in front of the house 
from a short and steep but stately avenue I said to 
myself that here surely we had arrived at the far- 
thest hmits of what ivy-smothered brickwork and 
weather-beaten gables, conscious old windows and 
clustered mossy roofs can accomplish for the eye. 
It is impossible to imagine a more finished picture. 
And its air of solitude and dehcate decay — of hav- 
ing been dropped into its grassy hollow as an ancient 
jewel is deposited upon a cushion, and being shut 
in from the world and back into the past by its 
circling woods — all this drives the impression well 
home. The house is not large, as great houses go, 
and it sits, as I have said, upon the grass, without 
even a flagging or a footpath to conduct you from 
the point where the avenue stops to the beautiful 
sculptured doorway which admits you into the 
small, quaint inner court. From this court you are 
at liberty to pass through the crookedest series of 
oaken halls and chambers, adorned with treasures of 
old wainscotting and elaborate doors and chimney- 
pieces. Outside, you may walk all round the house 
on a grassy bank, which is raised above the level on 
which it stands, and find it from every point of view 
a more charming composition. I should not omit 
to mention that Compton Wyniates is supposed to 
have been in Scott's eye when he described the 
dwelling of the old royalist knight in "Woodstock." 



222 ENGLISH HOURS 

In this case he simply transferred the house to the 
other side of the county. He has indeed given sev- 
eral of the features of the place, but he has not given 
what one may call its colour. I must add that if Sir 
Walter could not give the colour of Compton Wyni- 
ates, it is useless for any other writer to try. It is 
a matter for the brush and not for the pen. 

And what shall I say of the colour of Wroxton 
Abbey, which we visited last in order and which in 
the thickening twilight, as we approached its great 
ivy-muffled face, laid on the mind the burden of its 
felicity ? Wroxton Abbey, as it stands, is a house 
of about the same period as Compton Wyniates — 
the latter years, I suppose, of the sixteenth cen- 
tury. But it is quite another affair. The place is 
inhabited, "kept up," full of the most interesting 
and most splendid detail. Its happy occupants, 
however, were fortunately not in the act of staying 
there (happy occupants, in England, are almost 
always absent), and the house was exhibited with 
a civility worthy of its merit. Everything that in the 
material line can render life noble and charming 
has been gathered into it with a profusion which 
makes the whole place a monument to past op- 
portunity. As I wandered from one rich room to 
another and looked at these things, that intimate 
appeal to the romantic sense which I just mentioned 
was mercilessly emphasised. But who can tell the 



IN WARWICKSHIRE 



22 



story of the romantic sense when that adventurer 
really rises to the occasion — takes its ease in an 
old English country-house while the twihght darkens 
the corners of expressive rooms and the victim of 
the scene, pausing at the window, turns his glance 
from the observing portrait of a handsome ancestral 
face and sees the great soft billows of the lawn melt 

away into the park? 

1877= 





ABBEYS AND CASTLES 



IT is a frequent perception with the stranger in 
England that the beauty and interest of the 
country are private property and that to get access 
to them a key is always needed. The key may be 
large or it may be small, but it must be something 
that will turn a lock. Of the things that contribute 
to the happiness of an American observer in these 
tantalising conditions, I can think of very few that 
do not come under this definition of private pro- 
perty. When I have mentioned the hedgerows and 
the churches I have almost exhausted the list. You 
can enjoy a hedgerow from the public road, and 



226 ENGLISH HOURS 

I suppose that even if you are a Dissenter you may 
enjoy a Norman abbey from the street. If there- 
fore you talk of anything beautiful in England, the 
presumption will be that it is private; and indeed 
such is my admiration of this delightful country that 
I feel incHned to say that if you talk of anything 
private the presumption will be that it is beautiful. 
This is something of a dilemma. When the ob- 
server permits himself to commemorate charming 
impressions he is in danger of giving to the world 
the fruits of friendship and hospitality. When on the 
other hand he withholds his impression he lets some- 
thing admirable slip away without having marked 
its passage, without having done it proper honour. 
He ends by mingling discretion with enthusiasm, 
and he says to himself that it is not treating a coun- 
try ill to talk of its treasures when the mention of 
each has tacit reference to some kindness conferred. 
The impressions I have in mind in writing these 
hnes were gathered in a part of England of which 
I had not before had even a traveller's glimpse, but 
as to which, after a day or two, I found myself quite 
ready to agree with a friend who lived there and 
who knew and loved it well, when he said very 
frankly, ''I do believe it is the loveliest corner of 
the world ! " This was not a dictum to quarrel about, 
and while I was in the neighbourhood I was quite of 
his opinion. I felt I might easily come to care for it 



ABBEYS AND CASTLES 227 

very much as he cared for it; I had a ghmpse of 
the kind of romantic passion such a country may 
inspire. It is a capital example of that density of 
feature which is the great characteristic of English 
scenery. There are no waste details; everything in 
the landscape is something particular — has a his- 
tory, has played a part, has a value to the imagina- 
tion. It is a region of hills and blue undulations, 
and, though none of the hills are high, all of them 
are interesting, — interesting as such things are 
interesting in an old, small country, by a kind of 
exquisite modulation, something suggesting that out- 
line and colouring have been retouched and refined 
by the hand of time. Independently of its castles and 
abbeys, the definite rehcs of the ages, such a land- 
scape seems charged and interfused. It has, has 
always had, human relations and is intimately con- 
scious of them. That httle speech about the loveli- 
ness of his county, or of his own part of his county, 
was made to me by my companion as we walked up 
the grassy slope of a hill, or "edge," as it is called 
there, from the crest of which we seemed in an 
instant to look away over most of the remainder of 
England. Certainly one would have grown to love 
such a view as that quite in the same way as to love 
some magnificent yet sensitive friend. The "edge" 
plunged down suddenly, as if the corresponding 
slope on the other side had been excavated, and you 



228 ENGLISH HOURS 

might follow the long ridge for the space of an after- 
noon's walk with this vast, charming prospect before 
your eyes. Looking across an English county into 
the next but one is a very pretty entertainment, the 
county seeming by no means so small as might be 
supposed. How can a county seem small in which, 
from such a vantage-point as the one I speak of, you 
see, as a darker patch across the lighter green, the 
great territory of one of the greatest representatives 
of territorial greatness? These things constitute 
immensities, and beyond them are blue undulations 
of varying tone, and then another bosky province 
which furnishes forth, as you are told, the residen- 
tial and other umbrage of another magnate. And 
to right and left of these, in wooded expanses, lie 
other domains of equal consequence. It was there- 
fore not the smallness but the vastness of the country 
that struck me, and I was not at all in the mood of a 
certain American who once, in my hearing, burst out 
laughing at an English answer to my enquiry as to 

whether my interlocutor often saw Mr. B . "Oh 

no," the answer had been, "we never see him: he 
lives away off in the West." It was the western part 
of his county our friend meant, and my American 
humourist found matter for infinite jest in his mean- 
ing. "I should as soon think," he remarked, "of 
talking of my own west or east foot." 

I do not think, even, that my sensibility to the 



ABBEYS AND CASTLES 229 

charm of this dehghtful reigon — for its hillside 
prospect of old red farmhouses lighting up the dark- 
green bottoms, of gables and chimney-tops of great 
houses peeping above miles of woodland, and, in the 
vague places of the horizon, of far-away towns and 
sites that one had always heard of — was condi- 
tioned upon having "property" in the neighbour- 
hood, so that the Httle girls in the town should sud- 
denly drop curtsies to me in the street ; though that 
too would certainly have been pleasant. At the same 
time having a little property would without doubt 
have made the attachment stronger. People who 
wander about the world without money in their 
pockets indulge in dreams — dreams of the things 
they would buy if their pockets were workable. 
These dreams are very apt to have relation to a good 
estate in any neighbourhood in which the wanderer 
may happen to find himself. For myself, I have 
never been in a country so unattractive that I did n't 
find myself ''drawn" to its most exemplary man- 
sion. In New England and other portions of the 
United States I have felt my heart go out to the 
Greek temple, the small Parthenon, in white-painted 
wood; in Italy I have made imaginary proposals 
for the yellow- walled villa with statues on the roof. 
My fancy, in England, has seldom fluttered so high 
as the very best house, but it has again and again 
hovered about one of the quiet places, unknown to 



230 ENGLISH HOURS 

fame, which are locally spoken of as merely ''good." 
There was one in especial, in the neighbourhood I 
allude to, as to which the dream of having impossibly 
acquired it from an embarrassed owner kept melt- 
ing into the vision of "moving in" on the morrow. 
I saw this place unfortunately, to small advantage; 
I saw it in the rain, but I am glad fine weather 
did n't meddle with the affair, for the irritation of 
envy might in this case have poisoned the impres- 
sion. It was a long, wet Sunday, and the waters 
were deep. I had been in the house all day, for the 
weather can best be described by my saying that it 
had been deemed to exonerate us from church. But 
in the afternoon, the prospective interval between 
lunch and tea assuming formidable proportions, 
my host took me a walk, and in the course of our 
walk he led me into a park which he described as 
''the paradise of a small English country-gentle- 
man." It was indeed a modern Eden, and the trees 
might have been trees of knowledge. They were of 
high antiquity and magnificent girth and stature; 
they were strewn over the grassy levels in extraor- 
dinary profusion, and scattered upon and down the 
slopes in a fashion than which I have seen nothing 
more felicitous since I last looked at the chestnuts 
above the Lake of Como. The point was that 
the property was small, but that one could perceive 
nowhere any limit. Shortly before we turned into 



ABBEYS AND CASTLES 231 

the park the rain had renewed itself, so that we were 
awkwardly wet and muddy; but, being near the 
house, my companion proposed to leave his card in 
a neighbourly way. The house was most agreeable; 
it stood on a kind of terrace, in the middle of a lawn 
and garden, and the terrace overhung one of the 
most copious rivers in England, as well as looking 
across to those blue undulations of which I have 
already spoken. On the terrace also was a piece of 
ornamental water, and there was a small iron paling 
to divide the lawn from the park. All this I beheld in 
the rain. My companion gave his card to the butler 
with the remark that we were too much bespattered 
to come in, and we turned away to complete our cir- 
cuit. As we turned away I became acutely conscious 
of what I should have been tempted to call the 
cruelty of this proceeding. My imagination gauged 
the whole position. It was a blank, a blighted Sun- 
day afternoon — no one could come. The house was 
charming, the terrace delightful, the oaks magni- 
ficent, the view most interesting. But the whole thing 
confessed to the blankness if not to the dulness. In 
the house was a drawing-room, and in the drawing- 
room was — by which I meant must he — an Eng- 
lish lady, a perfectly harmonious figure. There was 
nothing fatuous in beheving that on this rainy 
Sunday afternoon it would not please her to be told 
that two gentlemen had walked across the country to 



232 ENGLISH HOURS 

her door only to go through the ceremony of leaving 
a card. Therefore, when, before we had gone many 
yards, I heard the butler hurrying after us, I felt 
how just my sentiment of the situation had been. 
Of course we went back, and I carried my muddy 
boots into the drawing-room — just the drawing- 
room I had imagined — where I found — I will not 
say just the lady I had imagined, but a lady even 
more in keeping. Indeed there were two ladies, one 
of whom was staying in the house. In whatever com- 
pany you find yourself in England, you may always 
be sure that some one present is "staying," and you 
come in due time to feel the abysses within the word. 
The large windows of the drawing-room I speak of 
looked away over the river to the blurred and blotted 
hills, where the rain was drizzling and drifting. It 
was very quiet, as I say; there was an air of large 
leisure. If one wanted to do anything here, there 
was evidently plenty of time — and indeed of every 
other appHance — to do it. The two ladies talked 
about "town:" that is what people talk about in 
the country. If I were disposed I might represent 
them as talking with a positive pathos of yearn- 
ing. At all events I asked myself how it could be 
that one should live in this charming place and 
trouble one's head about what was going on in 
London in July. Then we had fine strong tea and 
bread and butter. 



ABBEYS AND CASTLES 233 

I returned to the habitation of my friend — for 
I too was guilty of "staying" — through an old 
Norman portal, massively arched and quaintly 
sculptured, across whose hollow threshold the eye of 
fancy might see the ghosts of monks and the shad- 
ows of abbots pass noiselessly to and fro. This aper- 
ture admits you to a beautiful ambulatory of the 
thirteenth century — a long stone gallery or cloister, 
repeated in two stories, with the interstices of its 
traceries now glazed, but with its long, low, narrow, 
charming vista still perfect and picturesque, with 
its flags worn away by monkish sandals and with 
huge round-arched doorways opening from its inner 
side into great rooms roofed like cathedrals. These 
rooms are furnished with narrow windows, of almost 
defensive aspect, set in embrasures three feet deep 
and ornamented with little grotesque mediaeval 
faces. To see one of the small monkish masks grin- 
ning at you while you dress and undress, or while 
you look up in the intervals of inspiration from your 
letter- writing, is a mere detail in the entertainment 
of living in a ci-devant priory. This entertainment 
is inexhaustible; for every step you take in such a 
house confronts you in one way or another with the 
remote past. You devour the documentary, you in- 
hale the historic. Adjoining the house is a beautiful 
ruin, part of the walls and windows and bases of the 
piers of the magnificent church administered by the 



234 ENGLISH HOURS 

predecessor of your host, the mitred abbot. These 
rehcs are very desultory, but they are still abund- 
ant, and they testify to the great scale and the stately 
beauty of the abbey. You may lie upon the grass 
at the base of an ivied fragment, measure the girth 
of the great stumps of the central columns, half- 
smothered in soft creepers, and think how strange 
it is that in this quiet hollow, in the midst of lonely 
hills, so exquisite and elaborate a work of art should 
have risen. It is but an hour's walk to another great 
ruin, which has held together more completely. 
There the central tower stands erect to half its alti- 
tude and the round arches and massive pillars of the 
nave make a perfect vista on the unencumbered turf. 
You get an impression that when Catholic England 
was in her prime great abbeys were as thick as mile- 
stones. By native amateurs even now the region is 
called "wild," though to American eyes it seems 
almost suburban in its smoothness and finish. There 
is a noiseless little railway running through the val- 
ley, and there is an ancient little town at the abbey 
gates — a town indeed with no great din of vehi- 
cles, but with goodly brick houses, with a dozen 
''pubhcs," with tidy, whitewashed cottages, and 
with httle girls, as I have said, bobbing curtsies in 
the street. Yet even now, if one had wound one's 
way into the valley by the railroad, it would be 
rather a surprise to find a great architectural dis- 




LUDLOW CASTLE, FROM THE MOAT 



ABBEYS AND CASTLES 235 

play in a setting so peaceful and pastoral. How 
impressive then must the beautiful church have been 
in the days of its prosperity, when the pilgrim came 
down to it from the grassy hillside and its bells made 
the stillness sensible! The abbey was in those days 
a great affair; it sprawled, as my companion said, 
all over the place. As you walk away from it you 
think you have got to the end of its geography, but 
you encounter it still in the shape of a rugged out- 
house enriched with an early- English arch, of an 
ancient well hidden in a kind of sculptured cavern. 
It is noticeable that even if you are a traveller from 
a land where there are no early- English — and 
indeed few late- English — arches, and where the 
well-covers are, at their hoariest, of fresh-looking 
shingles, you grow used with Httle delay to all this 
antiquity. Anything very old seems extremely nat- 
ural; there is nothing we suffer to get so near us as 
the tokens of the remote. It is not too much to say 
that after spending twenty-four hours in a house that 
is six hundred years old you seem yourself to have 
lived in it six hundred years. You seem yourself to 
have hollowed the flags with your tread and to have 
polished the oak with your touch. You walk along 
the little stone gallery where the monks used to pace, 
looking out of the gothic window-places at their 
beautiful church, and you pause at the big, round, 
rugged doorway that admits you to what is now the 



236 ENGLISH HOURS 

drawing-room. The massive step by which you 
ascend to the threshold is a trifle crooked, as it 
should be; the lintels are cracked and worn by the 
myriad-fingered years. This strikes your casual 
glance. You look up and down the miniature cloister 
before you pass in; it seems wonderfully old and 
queer. Then you turn into the drawing-room, where 
you find modern conversation and late publications 
and the prospect of dinner. The new life and the old 
have melted together; there is no dividing-line. In 
the drawing-room wall is a queer funnel-shaped 
hole, with the broad end inward, like a small case- 
mate. You ask what it is, but people have forgotten. 
It is something of the monks; it is a mere detail. 
After dinner you are told that there is of course 
a ghost, a grey friar who is seen in the dusky hours 
at the end of passages. Sometimes the servants see 
him; they afterwards go surreptitiously to sleep in 
the village. Then, when you take your chamber- 
candle and go wandering bedward by a short cut 
through empty rooms, you are conscious of an atti- 
tude toward the grey friar which you hardly know 
whether to read as a fond hope or as a great fear. 

A friend of mine, an American, who knew this 
country, had told me not to fail, while I was in the 
neighbourhood, to go to Stokesay and two or three 
other places. "Edward IV and Elizabeth," he said, 
"are still hanging about there." So admonished, I 



ABBEYS AND CASTLES 237 

made a point of going at least to Stokesay, and I saw 
quite what my friend meant. Edward IV and Eliza- 
beth indeed are still to be met almost anywhere in 
the county; as regards domestic architecture few 
parts of England are still more vividly old- English. 
I have rarely had, for a couple of hours, the sensa- 
tion of dropping back personally into the past so 
straight as while I lay on the grass beside the well 
in the little sunny court of this small castle and lazily 
appreciated the still definite details of mediaeval 
hfe. The place is a capital example of a small gentil- 
hommiere of the thirteenth century. It has a good 
deep moat, now filled with wild verdure, and a curi- 
ous gate- house of a much later period — the period 
when the defensive attitude had been wellnigh aban- 
doned. This gate-house, which is not in the least in 
the style of the habitation, but gabled and heavily 
timbered, with quaint cross-beams protruding from 
surfaces of coarse white plaster, is a very effective 
anomaly in regard to the Httle grey fortress on the 
other side of the court. I call this a fortress, but it is 
a fortress which might easily have been taken, and 
it must have assumed its present shape at a time 
when people had ceased to peer through narrow slits 
at possible besiegers. There are slits in the outer 
walls for such peering, but they are noticeably broad 
and not particularly oblique, and might easily have 
been applied to the uses of a peaceful parley. This is 



238 ENGLISH HOURS 

part of the charm of the place; human Hfe there 
must have lost an earher grimness; it was lived in 
by people who were beginning to believe in good 
intentions. They must have lived very much to- 
gether; that is one of the most obvious reflections 
in the court of a mediaeval dwelling. The court was 
not always grassy and empty, as it is now, with only 
a couple of gentlemen in search of impressions lying 
at their length, one of them handling a wine-flask 
that colours the clear water drawn from the well into 
a couple of tumblers by a decent, rosy, smiling, talk- 
ing old woman who has come busthng out of the 
gate-house and who has a large, dropsical, innocent 
husband standing about on crutches in the sun and 
making no sign when you ask after his health. This 
poor man has reached that ultimate depth of human 
simplicity at which even a chance to talk about one's 
ailments is not appreciated. But the civil old woman 
talks for every one, even for an artist who has come 
out of one of the rooms, where I see him afterward 
reproducing its mouldering repose. The rooms are 
all unoccupied and in a state of extreme decay, 
though the castle is, as yet, far from being a ruin. 
From one of the windows I see a young lady sitting 
under a tree, across a meadow, with her knees up, 
dipping something into her mouth. It is indubitably 
a camel's hair paint-brush; the young lady is in- 
evitably sketching. These are the only besiegers to 



ABBEYS AND CASTLES 239 

which the place is exposed now, and they can do no 
great harm, as I doubt whether the young lady's 
aim is Ycry good. We w^andered about the empty 
interior, thinking it a pity such things should fall to 
pieces. There is a beautiful great hall — great, that 
is, for a small castle (it would be extremely hand- 
some in a modern house) — with tall, ecclesiastical- 
looking windows, and a long staircase at one end, 
which chmbs against the wall into a spacious bed- 
room. You may still apprehend very well the main 
hnes of that simpler Hfe; and it must be said that, 
simpler though it was, it was apparently by no means 
destitute of many of our own conveniences. The 
chamber at the top of the staircase ascending from 
the hall is charming still, with its irregular shape, its 
low-browed ceiling, its cupboards in the walls, its 
deep bay window formed of a series of small lattices. 
You can fancy people stepping out from it upon the 
platform of the staircase, whose rugged wooden logs, 
by way of steps, and soHd, deeply-guttered hand- 
rail, still remain. They looked down into the hall, 
where, I take it, there was always a congregation of 
retainers, much lounging and waiting and passing 
to and fro, with a door open into the court. The 
court, as I said just now, was not the grassy, aesthetic 
spot which you may find it at present of a summer's 
day; there were beasts tethered in it, and husthng 
men-at-arms, and the earth was trampled into pud- 



240 ENGLISH HOURS 

dies. But my lord or my lady, looking down from 
the chamber-door, commanded the position and, no 
doubt, issued their orders accordingly. The sight of 
the groups on the floor beneath, the calling up and 
down, the oaken tables spread and the brazier in the 
middle — all this seemed present again; and it was 
not difficult to pursue the historic vision through the 
rest of the building — through the portion which 
connected the great hall with the tower (where the 
confederate of the sketching young lady without had 
set up the peaceful three-legged engine of his craft) ; 
through the dusky, roughly circular rooms of the 
tower itself, and up the corkscrew staircase of the 
same to that most charming part of every old castle, 
where visions must leap away off the battlements to 
elude you — the bright, dizzy platform at the tower- 
top, the place where the castle-standard hung and 
the vigilant inmates surveyed the approaches. Here, 
always, you really overtake the impression of the 
place — here, in the sunny stillness, it seems to pause, 
panting a little, and give itself up. 

It was not only at Stokesay that I hngered a 
while on the summit of the keep to enjoy the com- 
plete impression so overtaken. I spent such another 
half-hour at Ludlow, which is a much grander and 
more famous monument. Ludlow, however, is a 
ruin — the most impressive and magnificent of ruins. 
The charming old town and the admirable castle 



! 




STOKESAY CASTLE 



ABBEYS AND CASTLES 241 

form a capital object of pilgrimage. Ludlow is an 
excellent example of a small English provincial 
town that has not been soiled and disfigured by 
industry; it exhibits no tall chimneys and smoke- 
streamers, no attendant purlieus and slums. The 
Httle city is perched upon a hill near which the 
goodly Severn wanders, and it has a remarkable air 
of civic dignity. Its streets are wide and clean, empty 
and a little grass-grown, and bordered with spacious, 
mildly-ornamental brick houses which look as if 
there had been more going on in them in the first 
decade of the century than there is in the present, 
but which can still nevertheless hold up their heads 
and keep their window-panes clear, their knockers 
brilliant, and their door-steps whitened. The place 
seems to say that some hundred years ago it was 
the centre of a large provincial society and that this 
society was very "good" of its kind. It must have 
transported itself to Ludlow for the season — in 
rumbling coaches and heavy curricles — and there 
entertained itself in decent emulation of that more 
majestic capital which a choice of railway fines had 
not as yet placed within its immediate reach. It had 
balls at the assembly rooms ; it had Mrs. Siddons to 
play; it had Catalani to sing. Miss Burney's and 
Miss Austen's heroines might perfectly well have 
had their first love-affair there; a journey to Ludlow 
would certainly have been a great event to Fanny 



242 ENGLISH HOURS 

Price or Emma Woodhouse, or even to those more 
romantically-connected young ladies Evelina and 
Cecilia. It is a place on which a provincial aristo- 
cracy has left so sensible a stamp as to enable you 
to measure both the grand manners and the small 
ways. It is a very interesting array of houses of the 
period after the poetry of domestic architecture had 
begun to wane and before the vulgarity had come 
— a fine familiar classic prose. Such places, such 
houses, such relics and intimations, carry us back 
to the near antiquity of that pre- Victorian England 
which it is still easy for a stranger to picture with 
a certain vividness, thanks to the partial survival 
of many of its characteristics. It is still easier for 
a stranger who has dwelt a time in England to form 
an idea of the tone, the habits, the aspect of the 
social life before its classic insularity had begun to 
wane, as all observers agree that it did about thirty 
years ago. It is true that the mental operation in 
this matter reduces itself to our imaging some of 
the things which form the peculiar national notes as 
infinitely exaggerated: the rigidly aristocratic con- 
stitution of society, the una^sthetic temper of the 
people, the small public fund of convenience, of 
elegance. Let an old gentleman of conservative 
tastes, who can remember the century's youth, talk 
to you at a club temporis adi — tell you wherein it 
is that from his own point of view London, as a resi- 



ABBEYS AND CASTLES 243 

dence for a gentleman, has done nothing but fall 
off for the last forty years. You will Ksten, of course, 
with an air of decent sympathy, but privately you 
will say to yourself how difficult a place of sojourn 
London must have been in those days for the trav- 
eller from other countries — how little cosmopolitan, 
how bound, in a thousand w^ays, with narrowness of 
custom. What was true of the great city at that 
time was of course doubly true of the provinces; 
and a community of the type of Ludlow must have 
been a kind of focus of insular propriety. Even then, 
however, the irritated alien would have had the 
magnificent ruins of the castle to dream himself 
back into good humour in. They would effectually 
have transported him beyond all waning or waxing 
Philistinisms. 

1877. 





ENGLISH VIGNETTES 



TOWARD the last of April, in Monmouthshire, 
the primroses were as big as your fist, I say in 
Monmouthshire, because I believe that a certain 
grassy mountain which I gave myself the pleasure of 
cHmbing and to which I took my way across the 
charming country, through lanes where the hedges 
were perched upon blooming banks, lay within the 
borders of this ancient province. It was the festive 
Eastertide, and a pretext for leaving London had 
not been wanting. Of course it rained — it rained 
a good deal — for man and the weather are usually 



246 ENGLISH HOURS 

at cross-purposes. But there were intervals of light 
and warmth, and in England a couple of hours of 
brightness islanded in moisture assert their inde- 
pendence and leave an uncompromised memory. 
These reprieves were even of longer duration; that 
whole morning for instance on which, with a com- 
panion, I scrambled up the little Skirrid. One had a 
feeling that one was very far from London; as in fact 
one was, after six or seven hours in a swift, straight 
train. In England this is a long span; it seemed to 
justify the half-reluctant confession, which I heard 
constantly made, that the country was extremely 
''wild." There is wildness and wildness, I thought; 
and though I had not been a great explorer I com- 
pared this rough district with several neighbourhoods 
in another part of the world that passed for tame. 
I went even so far as to wish that some of its ruder 
features might be transplanted to that relatively 
unregulated landscape and commingled with its 
suburban savagery. We were close to the Welsh 
border, and a dozen httle mountains in the distance 
were peeping over each other's shoulders, but nature 
was open to the charge of no worse disorder than 
this. The Skirrid (I Hke to repeat the name) wore, 
it is true, at a distance, the aspect of a magnified 
extinguisher; but when, after a bright, breezy walk 
through lane and meadow, we had scrambled over 
the last of the thickly-flowering hedges which lay 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 247 

around its shoulders like loosened strings of coral 
and begun to ascend the grassy cone (very much in 
the attitude of Nebuchadnezzar), it proved as 
smooth-faced as a garden-mound. Hard by, on the 
flanks of other hills, were troops of browsing sheep, 
and the only thing that confessed in the least to a 
point or an edge was the strong, damp wind. But 
even the high breeze was good-humoured and only 
wanted something to play with, blowing about the 
pearly morning mists that were airing themselves 
upon neighbouring ridges and shaking the vaporous 
veil that fluttered down in the valley over the pictur- 
esque little town of Abergavenny. A breezy, grassy 
Enghsh hill-top, looking down on a country full of 
suggestive names and ancient memories and implied 
stories (especially if you are exhilarated by a beau- 
tiful walk and have a flask in your pocket), shows 
you the world as a very smooth place, fairly rubbed 
so by human use. 

I was warned away from church, on Sunday, by 
my mistrust of its mediaeval chill — lumbago there 
was so clearly catching. In the still hours, when the 
roads and lanes were empty, I simply walked to the 
churchyard and sat upon one of the sun-warmed 
gravestones. I say the roads were empty, but they 
were peopled with the big primroses I just now 
spoke of — primroses of the size of ripe apples and 
yet, in spite of their rank growth, of as pale and 



248 ENGLISH HOURS 

tender a yellow as if their gold had been diluted with 
silver. It was indeed a mixture of gold and silver, 
for there was a wealth of the white wood-anemone 
as well, and these delicate flowers, each of so per- 
fect a coinage, were tumbled along the green way- 
side as if a prince had been scattering largess. The 
outside of an old English country church in service- 
time is a very pleasant place; and this is as near as I 
often dare approach the celebration of the Anglican 
mysteries. A just sufficient sense of their august 
character may be gathered from that vague sound of 
village music which makes its way out into the still- 
ness and from the perusal of those portions of the 
Prayer-Book which are inscribed upon mouldering 
slabs and dislocated headstones. The church I speak 
of was a beautiful specimen of its kind — intensely 
aged, variously patched, but still solid and useful 
and with no touch of restoration. It was very big 
and massive and, hidden away in the fields, had a 
kind of lonely grandeur; there was nothing in par- 
ticular near it but its out-of-the-world little parson- 
age. It was only one of ten thousand; I had seen 
a hundred such before. But I watched the watery 
sunshine upon the rugosities of its ancient masonry; 
I stood a while in the shade of two or three spread- 
ing yews which stretched their black arms over 
graves decorated for Easter, according to the cus- 
tom of that country, with garlands of primrose and 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 249 

dog-violet; and I reflected that in a " wild " region 
it was a blessing to have so quiet a place of refuge 
as that. 

Later I chanced upon a couple of other asylums 
which were more spacious and no less tranquil. 
Both of them were old country-houses, and each in 
its way was charming. One was a half-modernised 
feudal dwelling, lying in a wooded hollow — a large 
concavity filled with a delightful old park. The 
house had a long grey facade and half a dozen 
towers, and the usual supply of ivy and of clustered 
chimneys relieved against a background of rook- 
haunted elms. But the windows were all closed 
and the avenue was untrodden; the house was the 
property of a lady who could not afford to live in it 
in becoming state and who had let it, furnished, to 
a rich young man, "for the shooting." The rich 
young man occupied it but for three weeks in the 
year and for the rest of the time left it a prey to the 
hungry gaze of the passing stranger, the would-be 
redresser of aesthetic wrongs. It seemed a great 
aesthetic wrong that so charming a place should not 
be a conscious, sentient home. In England all this 
is very common. It takes a great many plain people 
to keep a "perfect" gentleman going; it takes a 
great deal of wasted sw^eetness to make up a saved 
property. It is true that, in the other case I speak 
of, the sweetness, which here was even greater, was 



250 ENGLISH HOURS 

less sensibly squandered. If there was no one else in 
the house at least there were ghosts. It had a dark 
red front and grim-looking gables; it was perched 
upon a vague terrace, quite high in the air, which 
was reached by steep, crooked, mossy steps. Be- 
neath these steps was an ancient bit of garden, and 
from the hither side of the garden stretched a great 
expanse of turf. Out of the midst of the turf sprang 
a magnificent avenue of Scotch firs — a perfect imi- 
tation of the Italian stone-pine. It looked like the 
Villa Borghese transplanted to the Welsh hills. The 
huge, smooth stems, in their double row, were 
crowned with dark parasols. In the Scotch fir or the 
Italian pine there is always an element of oddity; 
the open umbrella in a rainy country is not a poetical 
analogy, and the case is not better if you compare 
the tree to a colossal mushroom. But, without 
analogies, there was something very striking in the 
effect of this enormous, rigid vista, and in the grassy 
carpet of the avenue, with the dusky, lonely, high- 
featured house looking down upon it. There was 
something solemn and tragical; the place was made 
to the hand of a story-seeker, who might have found 
his characters within, as, the leaden lattices being 
open, the actors seemed ready for the stage. 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 251 

II 

The Isle of Wight is at first disappointing. I 
wondered why it should be, and then I found the 
reason in the influence of the detestable httle rail- 
way. There can be no doubt that a railway in the 
Isle of Wight is a gross impertinence, is in evident 
contravention to the natural style of the place. The 
place is pure picture or is nothing at all. It is or- 
namental only — it exists for exclamation and the 
water-colour brush. It is separated by nature from 
the dense railway system of the less diminutive 
island, and is the corner of the world where a good 
carriage-road is most in keeping. Never was a clearer 
opportunity for sacrificing to prettiness; never was 
a better chance for not making a railway. But now 
there are twenty trains a day, so that the prettiness 
is twenty times less. The island is so small that the 
hideous embankments and tunnels are obtrusive; 
the sight of them is as painful as it would be to see 
a pedlar's pack on the shoulders of a lovely woman. 
This is your first impression as you travel (naturally 
by the objectionable conveyance) from Ryde to Vent- 
nor; and the fact that the train rumbles along very 
smoothly and stops at half a dozen little stations, 
where the groups on the platform enable you to per- 
ceive that the population consists almost exclusively 
of gentlemen in costumes suggestive of unlimited 



252 ENGLISH HOURS 

leisure for attention to cravats and trousers (an 
immensely large class in England), of old ladies 
of the species denominated in France rentieres, of 
young ladies of the highly educated and sketching 
variety, this circumstance fails to reconcile you to 
the chartered cicatrix which forms your course. At 
Ventnor, however, face to face with the sea, and 
with the blooming shoulder of the UndercHff close 
behind you, you lose sight to a certain extent of the 
superfluities of civilisation. Not indeed that Ventnor 
has not been dihgently civilised. It is a formed and 
finished watering-place, it has been reduced to a 
due degree of cockneyfication. But the glittering 
ocean remains, shimmering at moments with blue 
and silver, and the large gorse- covered downs rise 
superbly above it. Ventnor hangs upon the side 
of a steep hill; and here and there it clings and 
scrambles, is propped up and terraced, like one of 
the bright-faced little towns that look down upon 
the Mediterranean. To add to the ItaHan effect the 
houses are all denominated villas, though it must be 
added that nothing is less Hke an ItaHan villa than 
an English. Those which ornament the successive 
ledges at Ventnor are for the most part small semi- 
detached boxes, predestined, even before they have 
fairly come into the world, to the entertainment 
of lodgers. They stand in serried rows all over the 
place, with the finest names in the Peerage painted 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 253 

upon their gate-posts. Their severe similarity of 
aspect, however, is such that even the difference 
between Plantagenet and Percival, between Mont- 
gomery and Montmorency, is hardly sufficient to 
enlighten the puzzled visitor. An English place 
of recreation is more comfortable than an Ameri- 
can; in a Plantagenet villa the art of receiving 
"summer guests" has usually been brought to a 
higher perfection than in an American rural hotel. 
But what strikes an American, with regard to even 
so charmingly-nestled a little town as Ventnor, is 
that it is far less natural, less pastoral and bosky 
than his own fond image of a summer retreat. 
There is too much brick and mortar; there are too 
many smoking chimneys and shops and pubhc- 
houses; there are no woods nor brooks nor lonely 
headlands; there is none of the virginal stillness of 
nature. Instead of these things there is an esplanade 
mostly paved with asphalt, bordered with benches 
and little shops and provided with a German band. 
To be just to Ventnor, however, I must hasten to 
add that once you get away from the asphalt there is 
a great deal of vegetation. The little village of Bon- 
church, which closely adjoins it, is buried in the 
most elaborate verdure, muffled in the smoothest 
lawns and the densest shrubbery. Bonchurch is 
simply delicious and indeed in a manner quite ab- 
surd. It is like a model village in imitative substances. 



254 ENGLISH HOURS 

kept in a big glass case; the turf might be of green 
velvet and the foliage of cut paper. The villagers 
are all happy gentlefolk, the cottages have plate- 
glass windows, and the rose-trees on their walls look 
as if tied up with ribbon "to match." Passing from 
Ventnor through the elegant umbrage of Bonchurch, 
and keeping along the coast toward Shanklin, you 
come to the prettiest part of the Undercliff, or in 
other words to the prettiest place in the world. The 
immense grassy cliffs which form the coast of the 
island make what the French would call a ''false 
descent" to the sea. At a certain point the descent 
is broken, so that a wide natural terrace, all over- 
tangled with wild shrubs and flowers, hangs there 
in mid-air, halfway above salt water. It is impos- 
sible to imagine anything more charming than this 
long, blooming platform, protected from the north 
by huge green bluffs and plunging on the other side 
into the murmuring tides. This delightful arrange- 
ment constitutes for a distance of some fifteen miles 
the south shore of the Isle of Wight; but the best 
of it, as I have said, is to be found in the four or 
five that separate Ventnor from Shanklin. Of a 
lovely afternoon in April these four or five miles are 
an admirable walk. 

Of course you must first catch your lovely after- 
noon. I caught one; in fact I caught two. On the 
second I climbed up the downs and perceived that 




SHANKLIN 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 255 

it was possible to put their gorse-covered stretches 
to still other than pedestrian uses — to devote them 
to sedentary pleasures. A long lounge in the lee of a 
stone wall, the lingering, fading afternoon light, the 
reddening sky, the band of blue sea above the level- 
topped bunches of gorse — these things, enjoyed as 
an undertone to the conversation of an amiable com- 
patriot, seemed indeed a very sufficient substitute 
for that primitive stillness of the absence of which 
I ventured just now to complain. 



Ill 

It was probably a mistake to stop at Portsmouth. 
I had done so, however, in obedience to a familiar 
theory that seaport towns abound in local colour, in 
curious types, in the quaint and the strange. But 
these charms, it must be confessed, were signally 
wanting to Portsmouth, along whose sordid streets 
I strolled for an hour, vainly glancing about me for 
an overhanging facade or a group of Maltese sailors. 
I was distressed to perceive that a famous seaport 
could be at once untidy and prosaic. Portsmouth 
is dirty, but it is also dull. It may be roughly 
divided into the dockyard and the public-houses. 
The dockyard, into which I was unable to pene- 
trate, is a colossal enclosure, signalised externally by 
a grim brick wall, as featureless as an empty black- 



256 ENGLISH HOURS 

board. The dockyard eats up the town, as it were, 
and there is nothing left over but the gin-shops, 
which the town drinks up. There is not even a 
crooked old quay of any consequence, with brightly 
patched houses looking out upon a forest of masts. 
To begin with, there are no masts; and then there 
are no polyglot sign-boards, no overhanging upper 
stories, no outlandish parrots and macaws perched 
in open lattices. I had another hour or so before my 
train departed, and it would have gone hard with me 
if I had not bethought myself of hiring a boat and 
being pulled about in the harbour. Here a certain 
amount of entertainment was to be found. There 
were great ironclads, and white troop-ships that 
looked vague and spectral, hke the floating home 
of the Flying Dutchman, and small, devihsh vessels 
whose mission was to project the infernal torpedo. 
I coasted about these metalHc islets, and then, to 
eke out my entertainment, I boarded the Victory. 
The Victory is an ancient frigate of enormous size, 
which in the days of her glory carried I know not 
how many hundred guns, but whose only function 
now is to stand year after year in Portsmouth waters 
and exhibit herself to the festive cockney. Bank- 
hoHday is now her great date; once upon a time it 
was Trafalgar. The Victory, in short, was Nelson's 
ship; it was on her huge deck that he was struck, 
and in her deep bowels he breathed his last. The 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 257 

venerable shell is provided with a company of 
ushers, Hke the Tower of London or Westminster 
Abbey, and is hardly less solid and spacious than 
either of the land-vessels. A good man in uniform 
did me the honours of the ship with a terrible dis- 
placement of /i's, and there seemed something 
strange in the way it had lapsed from its heroic 
part. It had carried two hundred guns and a 
mighty warrior, and boomed against the enemies of 
England; it had been the scene of one of the most 
thrilling and touching events in English history. 
Now, it was hardly more than a mere source of in- 
come to the Portsmouth watermen, an objective 
point for Whitsuntide excursionists, a thing a pil- 
grim from afar must allude to very casually, for fear 
of seeming vulgar or even quite serious. 

But I recouped myself, as they say, by stop- 
ping afterwards at Chichester. In this dense and 
various old England two places may be very near to- 
gether and yet strike a very different note. I knew 
in a general way that this one had for its main sign 
a cathedral, and indeed had caught the sign, in the 
form of a beautiful spire, from the window of the 
train. I had always regarded an afternoon in a 
small cathedral- town as a high order of entertain- 
ment, and a morning at Portsmouth had left me in 



258 ENGLISH HOURS 

the mood for not missing such an exhibition. The 
spire of Chichester at a httle distance greatly re- 
sembles that of Salisbury. It is on a smaller scale, 
but it tapers upward with a delicate slimness which, 
Hke that of its famous rival, makes a picture of the 
level landscape in which it stands. Unlike the spire 
of Salisbury, however, it has not at present the charm 
of antiquity. A few years ago the old steeple col- 
lapsed and tumbled into the church, and the present 
structure is but a modern facsimile. The cathedral 
is not of the highest interest; it is rather inexpressive, 
and, except for a curious old detached bell-tower 
which stands beside it, has no particular element 
of unexpectedness. But an English cathedral of re- 
stricted grandeur may yet be a very charming affair; 
and I spent an hour or so circHng round this highly 
respectable edifice, with the spell of contemplation 
unbroken by satiety. I approached it, from the 
station, by the usual quiet red-brick street of the 
usual cathedral town — a street of small, excellent 
shops, before which, here and there, one of the 
vehicles of the neighbouring gentry was drawn up 
beside the curbstone while the grocer or the book- 
seller, who had hurried out obsequiously, was wait- 
ing upon the comfortable occupant. I went into 
a bookseller's to buy a Chichester guide, which 
I perceived in the window; I found the shop- 
keeper talking to a young curate in a soft hat. The 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 259 

guide seemed very desirable, though it appeared to 
have been but scantily desired ; it had been pubHshed 
in the year 1841, and a very large remnant of the 
edition, with a muslin back and a little white label 
and paper-covered boards, was piled up on the 
counter. It was dedicated, with terrible humility, to 
the Duke of Richmond, and ornamented with prim- 
itive woodcuts and steel plates ; the ink had turned 
brown and the page musty; and the style itself — 
that of a provincial antiquary of upwards of forty 
years ago penetrated with the grandeur of the aris- 
tocracy — had grown rather sallow and stale. No- 
thing could have been more mellifluous and urbane 
than the young curate: he was arranging to have 
the "Times" newspaper sent him every morning for 
perusal. ''So it will be a penny if it is fetched away 
at noon?" he said, smiHng very sweetly and with 
the most gentlemanly voice possible; ''and it will 
be three halfpence if it is fetched away at four 
o'clock?" At the top of the street, into which, with 
my guide-book, I relapsed, was an old market-cross 
of the fifteenth century — a florid, romantic little 
structure. It consists of a stone paviHon, with open 
sides and a number of pinnacles and crockets and 
buttresses, besides a goodly medallion of the high- 
nosed visage of Charles I, which was placed above 
one of the arches, at the Restoration, in compensa- 
tion for the violent havoc wrought upon the little 



26o 



ENGLISH HOURS 



town by the Parliamentary soldiers, who had wrested 
the place from the Royalists and who amused them- 
selves, in their grim fashion, with infinite hacking 
and hewing in the cathedral. Here, to the left, the 
cathedral discloses itself, lifting its smart grey 
steeple out of a pleasant garden. Opposite to the 
garden was the Dolphin or the Dragon — in fine 
the most ehgible inn. I must confess that for a time 
it divided my attention with the cathedral, in virtue 
of an ancient, musty parlour on the second floor, 
with hunting-pictures hung above haircloth sofas; 
of a red-faced waiter, in evening dress; of a big 
round of cold beef and a tankard of ale. The pret- 
tiest thing at Chichester is a charming httle three- 
sided cloister, attached to the cathedral, where, as 
is usual in such places, you may sit upon a grave- 
stone amid the deep grass in the middle and meas- 
ure the great central mass of the church — the 
large grey sides, the high foundations of the spire, 
the parting of the nave and transept. From this 
point the greatness of a cathedral seems more 
complex and impressive. You watch the big 
shadows slowly change their relations; you listen 
to the cawing of rooks and the twittering of swal- 
lows; you hear a slow footstep echoing in the 
cloisters. 




CHICHESTER CROSS 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 261 

V 

If Oxford were not the finest thing in England the 
case would be clearer for Cambridge. It was clear 
enough there, for that matter, to my imagination, 
for thirty-six hours. To the barbaric mind, ambi- 
tious of culture, Oxford is the usual image of the 
happy reconcihation between research and accept- 
ance. It typifies to an American the union of science 
and sense — of aspiration and ease. A German 
university gives a greater impression of science and 
an English country-house or an Italian villa a greater 
impression of idle enjoyment; but in these cases, on 
one side, knowledge is too rugged, and on the other 
satisfaction is too trivial. Oxford lends sweetness to 
labour and dignity to leisure. When I say Oxford 
I mean Cambridge, for a stray savage is not the least 
obliged to know the difference, and it suddenly 
strikes me as being both very pedantic and very 
good-natured in him to pretend to know it. What 
institution is more majestic than Trinity College? 
what can affect more a stray savage than the 
hospitality of such an institution? The first quad- 
rangle is of immense extent, and the buildings that 
surround it, with their long, rich fronts of time-deep- 
ened grey, are the stateliest in the world. In the 
centre of the court are two or three acres of close- 
shaven lawn, out of the midst of which rises a grand 



262 ENGLISH HOURS 

gothic fountain, where the serving-men fill up their 
buckets. There are towers and battlements and 
statues, and besides these things there are cloisters 
and gardens and bridges. There are charming 
rooms in a kind of stately gate-tower, and the rooms, 
occupying the thickness of the building, have win- 
dows looking out on one side over the magnificent 
quadrangle, with half a mile or so of Decorated 
architecture, and on the other into deep-bosomed 
trees. And in the rooms is the best company con- 
ceivable — distinguished men who are thoroughly 
conversible, intimately affable. I spent a beautiful 
Sunday morning walking about the place with one 
of these gentlemen and attempting to dehrouiller 
its charms. These are a very complicated tangle, 
and I do not pretend, in memory, to keep the col- 
leges apart. There are none the less half a dozen 
points that make ineffaceable pictures. Six or 
eight of the colleges stand in a row, turning their 
backs to the river; and hereupon ensues the loveli- 
est confusion of gothic windows and ancient trees, 
of grassy banks and mossy balustrades, of sun- 
chequered avenues and groves, of lawns and gardens 
and terraces, of single-arched bridges spanning the 
little stream, which is small and shallow and looks 
as if it had been turned on for ornamental purposes. 
The thin-flowing Cam appears to exist simply as 
an occasion for these brave little bridges — the 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 263 

beautiful covered gallery of John's or the slightly 
collapsing arch of Clare. In the way of college- 
courts and quiet scholastic porticoes, of grey- walled 
gardens and ivied nooks of study, in all the pictorial 
accidents of a great English university, Cambridge 
is delightfully and inexhaustibly rich. I looked at 
these one by one and said to myself always that 
the last was the best. If I were called upon, how- 
ever, to mention the prettiest corner of the world, 
I should draw out a thoughtful sigh and point the 
way to the garden of Trinity Hall. My companion, 
who was very competent to judge (but who spoke 
indeed with the partiality of a son of the house), 
declared, as he ushered me into it, that it was, to his 
mind, the most beautiful small garden in Europe. 
I freely accepted, and I promptly repeat, an affirma- 
tion so magnanimously conditioned. The Httle 
garden at Trinity Hall is narrow and crooked; it 
leans upon the river, from which a low parapet, all 
muffled in ivy, divides it; it has an ancient wall 
adorned with a thousand matted creepers on one 
side, and on the other a group of extraordinary 
horse-chestnuts. The trees are of prodigious size; 
they occupy half the garden, and are remarkable 
for the fact that their giant limbs strike down into 
the earth, take root again and emulate, as they rise, 
the majesty of the parent stem. The manner in 
which this magnificent group of horse-chestnuts 



264 ENGLISH HOURS 

sprawls about over the grass, out into the middle of 
the lawn, is one of the most heart-shaking features 
of the garden of Trinity Hall. Of course the single 
object at Cambridge that makes the most abiding 
impression is the famous chapel of King's College — 
the most beautiful chapel in England. The effect 
it attempts to produce within is all in the sphere of 
the sublime. The attempt succeeds, and the success 
is attained by a design so light and elegant that at 
first it almost defeats itself. The sublime usually 
has more of a frown and straddle, and it is not until 
after you have looked about you for ten minutes 
that you perceive the chapel to be saved from being 
the prettiest church in England by the accident of 
its being one of the noblest. It is a cathedral with- 
out aisles or columns or transepts, but (as a compen- 
sation) with such a beautiful slimness of clustered 
tracery soaring along the walls and spreading, 
bending, and commingling in the roof, that its 
simplicity seems only a richness the more. I stood 
there for a quarter of an hour on a Sunday morn- 
ing; there was no service, but in the choir behind 
the great screen which divides the chapel in half 
the young choristers were rehearsing for the after- 
noon. The beautiful boy voices rose together and 
touched the splendid vault; they hung there, ex- 
panding and resounding, and then, like a rocket 
that spends itself, they faded and melted toward 




" • ' 'if liaiiiMi^ 




ABBEY GATEWAY, BURY ST. EDMUNDS 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 265 

the end of the building. It was positively a choir 
of angels. 

VI 

Cambridgeshire is one of the so-called ugly coun- 
ties; which means that it is observably flat. It is 
for this reason that the absence of terrestrial accent 
which culminates at Newmarket constitutes so per- 
fect a means to an end. The country is like a board 
of green cloth; the turf presents itself as a friendly 
provision of nature. Nature offers her gentle bosom 
as a gaming-table; card-tables, billiard-tables are 
but a humble imitation of Newmarket Heath. It 
was odd to think that amid so much of the appear- 
ance of the humility of real virtue, there is more 
profane betting than anywhere else in the world. 
The large, neat English meadows roll away to 
a humid-looking sky, the young partridges jump 
about in the hedges, and nature looks not in the least 
as if she were offering you odds. The gentlemen 
look it, though, the gentlemen whom you meet on 
the roads and in the railway carriage; they have 
that marked air — it pervades a man from the cut 
of his whisker to the shape of his boot-toe — as of 
the sublimated stable. It is brought home to you 
that to an immense number of people in England the 
events in the "Racing Calendar" constitute the 
most important portion of contemporary history. 



266 ENGLISH HOURS 

The very breeze has an equine snort, if it. does n't 
breathe as hard as a hostler; the blue and white of 
the sky, dappled and spotty, recalls the figure of the 
necktie of "spring meetings; " and the landscape is 
coloured as a sporting-print is coloured — with the 
same gloss, the same that seems to say a thousand 
grooms have rubbed it down. 

The destruction of partridges is, if an equally 
classical, a less licentious pursuit, for which, I 
believe, Cambridgeshire offers peculiar facilities. 
Among these is a particular shooting-box which is 
a triumph of the familiar, the accidental style and 
a temple of clear hospitality. The shooting belongs 
to the autumn, not to this vernal period; but as 
I have spoken of echoes I suppose that if I had 
listened attentively I might have heard the ghostly 
crack of some of the famous shots that have been 
discharged there. The air, notedly, had vibrated 
to several august rifles, but all that I happened to 
hear by listening was some excellent talk. In Eng- 
land, at any rate, as I said just now, a couple of 
places may be very near together and yet have what 
the philosophers call a connotation strangely differ- 
ent. Only a few miles beyond Newmarket lies Bury 
St. Edmunds, a town whose tranquil antiquity turns 
its broad grey back straight upon the sporting 
papers. I confess that I went to Bury simply on the 
strength of its name, which I had often encountered 



ENGLISH VIGNETTES 267 

and which had always seemed to me to have a high 
value for the picture-seeker. I knew that St. Ed- 
mund had been an Anglo-Saxon worthy, but my 
conviction that the little town that bore his name 
would move me to rapture between trains had no- 
thing definite to rest upon. The event, however, 
rewarded my faith — rewarded it with the sight of a 
magnificent old gate-house of the thirteenth century, 
the most substantial of many relics of the great 
abbey which once flourished there. There are many 
others; they are scattered about the old precinct of 
the abbey, a large portion of which has been con- 
verted into a rambling botanic garden, the resort at 
Whitsuntide of a thousand very modern merry- 
makers. The monument I speak of has the propor- 
tions of a triumphal arch; it is at once a gateway 
and a fortress; it is covered with beautiful orna- 
ment and is altogether the lion of Bury. 

1879. 





AN ENGLISH NEW YEAR 



IT will hardly be pretended this year that the 
English Christmas has been a merry one, or that 
the New Year has the promise of being particularly 
happy. The winter is proving very cold and vicious 
— as if nature herself were loath to be left out of 
the general conspiracy against the comfort and self- 
complacency of man. The country at large has a 
sense of embarrassment and depression, which is 
brought home more or less to every class in the 
closely graduated social hierarchy, and the hght of 
Christmas firesides has by no means dispelled the 
gloom. Not that I mean to overstate the gloom. It 



270 ENGLISH HOURS 

is difficult to imagine any combination of adverse 
circumstances powerful enough to infringe very sen- 
sibly upon the appearance of activity and prosperity, 
social stability and luxury, which English life must 
always present to a stranger. Nevertheless the times 
are distinctly of the kind synthetically spoken of as 
hard — there is plenty of evidence of it — and the 
spirits of the pubhc are not high. The depression of 
business is extreme and universal; I am ignorant 
whether it has reached so calamitous a point as that 
almost hopeless prostration of every industry which 
it is assured us you have lately witnessed in America, 
and I believe the sound of lamentation is by no 
means so loud as it has been on two or three occa- 
sions within the present century. The possibility of 
distress among the lower classes has been minimised 
by the gigantic poor-relief system which is so char- 
acteristic a feature of English civilisation and which, 
under especial stress, is supplemented (as is the case 
at present) by private charity proportionately huge. 
I notice too that in some parts of the country dis- 
criminating groups of work-people have selected 
these dismal days as a happy time for striking. 
When the labouring classes rise to the recreation of a 
strike I suppose the situation may be said to have its 
cheerful side. There is, however, great distress in 
the North, and there is a general feeling of scant 
money to play with throughout the country. The 



AN ENGLISH NEW YEAR 271 

" Daily News" has sent a correspondent to the great 
industrial regions, and almost every morning for the 
last three weeks a very cleverly executed picture of 
the misery of certain parts of Yorkshire and Lanca- 
shire has been served up with the matutinal tea and 
toast. The work is a good one, and, I take it, emi- 
nently worth doing, as it appears to have had a 
visible effect upon the purse-strings of the well-to-do. 
There is nothing more striking in England than the 
success with which an "appeal" is always made. 
Whatever the season or whatever the cause, there 
always appears to be enough money and enough 
benevolence in the country to respond to it in suffi- 
cient measure — a remarkable fact when one remem- 
bers that there is never a moment of the year when 
the custom of " appealing" intermits. Equally strik- 
ing perhaps is tlie perfection to which the science 
of distributing charity has been raised — the way it 
has been analysed and organised and made one of 
the exact sciences. You perceive that it has occu- 
pied for a long time a foremost place among admin- 
istrative questions, and has received all the light that 
experience and practice can throw upon it. Is there 
in this perception more of a lightened or more of an 
added weight for the brooding consciousness ? Truly 
there are aspects of England at which one can but 
darkly stare. 

I left town a short time before Christmas and 



272 ENGLISH HOURS 

went to spend the festive season in the North, in a 
part of the country with which I was unacquainted. 
It was quite possible to absent one's self from Lon- 
don without a sense of sacrifice, for the charms of 
the capital during the last several weeks have been 
obscured by peculiarly vile weather. It is of course 
a very old story that I^ondon is foggy, and this simple 
statement raises no blush on the face of nature as 
we see it here. But there are fogs and fogs, and the 
folds of the black mantle have been during the 
present winter intolerably thick. The thickness that 
draws down and absorbs the smoke of the housetops, 
causes it to hang about the streets in impenetrable 
density, forces it into one's eyes and dow^n one's 
throat, so that one is half-blinded and quite sickened 
— this form of the particular plague has been much 
more frequent than usual. Just before Christmas, 
too, there was a heavy snow-storm, and even a toler- 
ably light fall of snow has London quite at its mercy. 
The emblem of purity is almost immediately con- 
verted into a sticky, lead-coloured mush, the cabs 
skulk out of sight or take up their stations before the 
lurid windows of a public-house, which glares 
through the sleety darkness at the desperate way- 
farer with an air of vulgar bravado. For recovery of 
one's nervous balance the only course was flight — 
flight to the country and the confinement of one's 
vision to the large area of one of those admirable 




A FACTORY TOWN AT NIGHT 



AN ENGLISH NEW YEAR 273 

homes which at this season overflow with hospitahty 
and good cheer. By this means the readjustment is 
effectually brought about — these are conditions 
that you cordially appreciate. Of all the great things 
that the English have invented and made a part of 
the credit of the national character, the most perfect, 
the most characteristic, the one they have mastered 
most completely in all its details, so that it has be-" 
come a compendious illustration of their social 
genius and their manners, is the well-appointed, 
well-administered, well-filled country-house. The 
grateful stranger makes these reflections — and 
others besides — as he wanders about in the beauti- 
ful library of such a dwelling, of an inclement winter 
afternoon, just at the hour when six o'clock tea is 
impending. Such a place and such a time abound in 
agreeable episodes; but I suspect that the episode 
from which, a fortnight ago, I received the most 
ineffaceable impression was but indirectly connected 
with the charms of a luxurious fireside. The country 
I speak of was a populous manufacturing region, 
full of tall chimneys and of an air that is grey and 
gritty. A lady had made a present of a Christmas- 
tree to the children of a workhouse, and she invited 
me to go with her and assist at the distribution of the 
toys. There was a drive through the early dusk of a 
very cold Christmas Eve, followed by the drawing up 
of a lamp-lit brougham in the snowy quadrangle of 



274 ENGLISH HOURS 

a grim-looking charitable institution. I had never 
been in an English workhouse before, and this one 
transported me, with the aid of memory, to the early 
pages of "Oliver Twist." We passed through cold, 
bleak passages, to which an odour of suet-pudding, 
the aroma of Christmas cheer, failed to impart an 
air of hospitality; and then, after waiting a while 
in a little parlour appertaining to the superintendent, 
where the remainder of a dinner of by no means 
eleemosynary simplicity and the attitude of a gentle- 
man asleep with a flushed face on the sofa seemed 
to effect a tacit exchange of references, we were 
ushered into a large frigid refectory, chiefly illumined 
by the twinkhng tapers of the Christmas-tree. Here 
entered to us some hundred and fifty Httle children 
of charity, who had been making a copious dinner 
and who brought with them an atmosphere of hun- 
ger memorably satisfied — together with other 
traces of the occasion upon their pinafores and their 
small red faces. I have said that the place reminded 
me of "Oliver Twist," and I glanced through this 
little herd for an infant figure that should look as if it 
were cut out for romantic adventures. But they 
were all very prosaic little mortals. They were made 
of very common clay indeed, and a certain number 
of them were idiotic. They filed up and received 
their little offerings, and then they compressed them- 
selves into a tight infantine bunch and, hfting up 



AN ENGLISH NEW YEAR 275 

their small hoarse voices, directed a melancholy 
hymn toward their benefactress. The scene was a 
picture I shall not forget, with its curious mixture 
of poetry and sordid prose — the dying wintry light 
in the big, bare, stale room; the beautiful Lady 
Bountiful, standing in the twinkling glory of the 
Christmas-tree; the little mukitude of staring and 
wondering, yet perfectly expressionless, faces. 

1879- 





AN ENGLISH WINTER WATERING-PLAGE 



I HAVE just been spending a couple of days at a 
well-known resort upon the Kentish coast, and 
though such an exploit is by no means unprece- 
dented, yet, as to the truly observing mind no op- 
portunity is altogether void and no impressions are 
wholly valueless, I have it on my conscience to make 
a note of my excursion. Superficially speaking, it 
was wanting in originahty; but I am afraid that it 
afforded me as much entertainment as if the idea 
of paying a visit to Hastings had been an invention 
of my own. This is so far from being the case that 
the most striking feature of the town in question is 



278 ENGLISH HOURS 

the immense provision made there for the entertain- 
ment of visitors. Hastings and St. Leonards, stand- 
ing side by side, present a united sea-front of more 
miles in length than I shall venture to compute. 
It is sufficient that in going from one end of the place 
to the other I had a greater sense of having taken a 
long, straight walk through street scenery than I had 
done since I last measured the populated length of 
Broadv^ay. This is not an image that evokes any 
one of the graces, and it must be confessed that the 
beauty of Hastings does not reside in a soft irregu- 
larity or a rural exuberance. Like all the larger 
English watering-places it is simply a little London 
super mare. The graceful, or at least the pictorial, is 
always to be found in England if one will take the 
trouble of looking for it; but it must be conceded 
that at Hastings this element is less obtrusive than 
it might be. I had heard it described as a "dull 
Brighton," and this description had been intended 
to dispose of the place. In fact, however, such is 
the perversity of the enquiring mind, it had rather 
quickened than quenched my interest. It occurred 
to me that it might be as entertaining to follow out 
the variations of Brighton, the possible embroideries 
of the theme, as it is often found to hsten to those 
with which some expressed musical idea is over- 
scored by another composer. Four or five miles of 
lodging-houses and hotels staring at the sea across 



A WATERING-PLACE 279 

a ''parade" adorned with iron benches, with hand- 
organs and German bands, with nursemaids and 
British babies, with ladies and gentlemen of leisure 
— looking rather embarrassed with it and trying 
rather unsuccessfully to get rid of it — this is the great 
feature which Brighton and Hastings have in com- 
mon. At Brighton there is a certain variety and 
gaiety of colour — something suggesting crookedness 
and yellow paint — which gives the scene a kind of 
cheerful, easy, more or less vulgar, foreign air. But 
Hastings is very grey and sober and English, and 
indeed it is because it seemed to me so English that 
I gave my best attention to it. If one is attempting 
to gather impressions of a people and to learn to 
know them, everything is interesting that is char- 
acteristic, quite apart from its being beautiful. Eng- 
hsh manners are made up of such a multitude of 
small details that the portrait a stranger has pri- 
vately sketched in is always liable to receive new 
touches. And this indeed is the explanation of his 
noting a great many small points, on the spot, with 
a degree of relish and appreciation which must often, 
to persons who are not in his position, appear exag- 
gerated, if not absurd. He has formed a mental pic- 
ture of the civilisation of the people he lives among, 
and whom, when he has a great deal of courage, he 
makes bold to say he is studying; he has drawn up 
a kind of tabular view of their manners and customs, 



28o ENGLISH HOURS 

their idiosyncrasies, their social institutions, their 
general features and properties; and when once he 
has suspended this rough cartoon in the chambers 
of his imagination he finds a great deal of occupa- 
tion in touching it up and filling it in. Wherever he 
goes, whatever he sees, he adds a few strokes. That 
is how I spent my time at Hastings. 

I found it, for instance, a question more interest- 
ing than it might superficially appear to choose 
between the inns — between the Royal Hotel upon 
the Parade and an ancient hostel, a survival of the 
posting-days, in a side street. A friend had described 
the latter estabhshment to me as "mellow," and 
this epithet complicated the problem. The term 
mellow, as applied to an inn, is the comparative 
degree of a state of things of which (say) "musty" 
would be the superlative. If you can seize this 
tendency in its comparative stage you may do very 
well indeed; the trouble is that, like all tendencies, 
it contains, even in its earlier phases, the germs of 
excess. I thought it very possible that the Swan 
would be over- ripe; but I thought it equally prob- 
able that the Royal would be crude. I could claim 
a certain acquaintance with "royal" hotels — 
I knew just how they were constituted. I foresaw the 
superior young woman sitting at a ledger, in a kind 
of glass cage, at the bottom of the stairs, and express- 
ing by refined intonations her contempt for a gentle- 





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THE FRONT, BRIGHTON 



A WATERING-PLACE 281 

man who should dedine to "require" a sitting- 
room. The functionary whom in America we know 
and dread as an hotel- clerk belongs in England to 
the sex which, at need, is able to look over your head 
to a still further point. Large hotels here are almost 
always owned and carried on by companies, and the 
company is represented by a well-shaped female 
figure belonging to the class whose members are 
more particularly known as "persons." The cham- 
bermaid is a young woman, and the female tourist is 
a lady; but the occupant of the glass cage, who 
hands you your key and assigns you your apart- 
ment, is designated in the manner I have mentioned. 
The "person" has various methods of revenging 
herself for her shadowy position in the social scale, 
and I think it was from a vague recollection of hav- 
ing on former occasions felt the weight of her embit- 
tered spirit that I determined to seek the hospitality 
of the humbler inn, where it was probable that one 
who was himself humble would enjoy a certain con- 
sideration. In the event, I was rather oppressed by 
the feather-bed quality of the welcome extended to 
me at the Swan. Once established there, in a sitting- 
room (after all), the whole affair had all the local 
colour I could desire. 

I have sometimes had occasion to repine at the 
meagreness and mustiness of the old-fashioned Eng- 
lish inn, and to feel that in poetry and in fiction 



282 ENGLISH HOURS 

these defects had been culpably glossed over. But 
I said to myself the other evening that there is a 
kind of venerable decency even in some of its dingi- 
est consistencies, and that in an age in which the 
1 conception of good manners is losing most of its 
' ancient firmness one should do justice to an institu- 
l tion that is still more or less of a stronghold of the 
faded amenities. It is a satisfaction in moving about 
f the world to be treated as a gentleman, and this 
< gratification appears to be more than, in the light of 
/ modern science, a Company can profitably under- 
take to bestow. I have an old friend, a person of 
admirably conservative instincts, from whom, a 
short time since, I borrowed a hint of this kind. This 
lady had been staying at a small inn in the country 
with her daughter; the daughter, whom we shall 
call Mrs. B., had left the house a few days before the 
mother. "Did you like the place?" I asked of my 
friend; "was it comfortable?" "No, it was not 
comfortable; but I hked it. It was shabby, and I 
was much overcharged; but it pleased me." "What 
was the mysterious charm?" "Well, when I was 
coming away, the landlady — she had cheated me 
horribly — came to my carriage, and dropped a 
curtsy, and said, ' My duty to Mrs. B., ma'am.' Que 
voulez-vous? That pleased me." There was an 
old waiter at Hastings who would have been cap- 
able of that — an old waiter who had been in the 



A WATERING-PLACE 283 

house for forty years and who was not so much an 
individual waiter as the very spirit and genius, the 
incarnation and tradition of waiterhood. He was 
faded and weary and rheumatic, but he had a sort 
of mixture of the paternal and the deferential, the 
philosophic and the punctilious, which seemed but 
grossly requited by a present of a small coin. I am 
not fond of jugged hare for dinner, either as a light 
entree or as a piece de resistance ; but this accom- 
plished attendant had the art of presenting you such 
a dish in a manner that persuaded you, for the time, 
that it was worthy of your serious consideration. 
The hare, by the way, before being subjected to the 
mysterious operation of jugging, might have been 
seen dangling from a hook in the bar of the inn, 
together with a choice collection of other viands. 
You might peruse the bill of fare in an elementary 
form as you passed in and out of the house, and 
make up your menu for the day by poking with your 
stick at a juicy-looking steak or a promising fowl. 
The landlord and his spouse were always on the 
threshold of the bar, polishing a brass candlestick 
and paying you their respects; the place was per- 
vaded by an aroma of rum- and- water and of com- 
mercial travellers' jokes. 

This description, however, is lacking in the ele- 
ment of gentility, and I will not pursue it farther, for 
I should give a very false impression of Hastings 



284 ENGLISH HOURS 

if I were to omit so characteristic a feature. It was, 
I think, the element of gentiUty that most impressed 
me. I know that the word I have just ventured 
to use is under the ban of contemporary taste; so 
I may as well say outright that I regard it as indis- 
pensable in almost any attempt at portraiture of 
English manners. It is vain for an observer of such 
things to pretend to get on without it. One may talk 
of foreign life indefinitely — of the manners and 
customs of France, Germany, and Italy — and 
never feel the need of this suggestive, yet mysteri- 
ously discredited, epithet. One may survey the 
remarkable face of American civilisation without 
finding occasion to strike this particular note. But 
in England no circumlocution will serve — the note 
must be definitely struck. To attempt to speak of 
an English watering-place in winter and yet pass it 
over in silence would be to forfeit all claims to the 
analytic spirit. For a stranger, at any rate, the term 
is invaluable — it is more convenient than I should 
find easy to say. It is instantly evoked in my mind 
by long rows of smuttily-plastered houses, with a 
card inscribed "Apartments" suspended in the 
window of the ground-floor sitting-room — that por- 
tion of the dwelling which is known in lodging-house 
parlance as "the parlours." Everything, indeed, 
suggests it — the bath-chairs, drawn up for hire in 
a melancholy row; the innumerable and excellent 



A WATERING-PLACE 285 

shops, adorned with the latest photographs of the 
royal family and of Mrs. Langtry ; the little reading- 
room and circulating library on the Parade, where 
the daily papers, neatly arranged, may be perused 
for a trifling fee, and the novels of the season are 
stacked away like the honeycombs in an apiary; 
the long pier, stretching out into the sea, to which 
you are admitted by the payment of a penny at a 
wicket, and where you may enjoy the music of an 
indefatigable band, the enticements of several little 
stalls for the sale of fancy-work, and the personal 
presence of good local society. It is only the wink- 
ing, twinkling, easily-rippHng sea that is not genteel. 
But, really, I was disposed to say at Hastings that if 
the sea was not genteel, so much the worse for Nep- 
tune; for it was the favourable aspect of the great 
British proprieties and solemnities that struck me. 
Hastings and St. Leonards, with their long, warm 
sea-front and their multitude of small, cheap com- 
forts and conveniences, offer a kind of resume of 
middle-class English civihsation and of advantages 
of which it would ill become an American to make 
light. I don't suppose that life at Hastings is the 
most exciting or the most gratifying in the world, but 
it must certainly have its advantages. If I were a 
quiet old lady of modest income and nice habits — 
or even a quiet old gentleman of the same pattern — 
I should certainly go to Hastings. There, amid the 



286 ENGLISH HOURS 

little shops and the httle libraries, the bath-chairs 
and the German bands, the Parade and the long 
Pier, with a mild dimate, a moderate scale of prices 
and the consciousness of a high civihsation, I should 
enjoy a seclusion which would have nothing primi- 
tive or crude. 



IV" 



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WINCHELSEA, RYE, AND ''DENIS DUVAL" 



I HAVE recently had a literary adventure which, 
though not followed by the prostration that 
sometimes ensues on adventures, has nevertheless 
induced meditation. The adventure itself indeed 
was not astounding, and I mention it, to be frank, 
only in the interest of its sequel. It consisted merely, 
on taking up an old book again for the sake of a 
certain desired and particular Hght, of my having 
found that the light was in fact not there to shine, 
but was, on the contrary, directly projected upon the 
book from the very subject itself as to which I had 



288 ENGLISH HOURS 

invoked assistance. The case, in short, to put it 
simply, was that Thackeray's charming fragment 
of "Denis Duval" proved to have much less than 
I had supposed to say about the two httle old towns 
with which the few chapters left to us are mainly 
concerned, but that the two little old towns, on the 
other hand, unexpectedly quickened reflection on 
"Denis Duval." Reading over Thackeray to help 
me further to Winchelsea, I became conscious, of a 
sudden, that Winchelsea — which I already in a 
manner knew — was only helping me further to 
Thackeray. Reinforced, in this service, by its little 
sister-city of Rye, it caused a whole question to open, 
and the question, in turn, added a savour to a sense 
already, by good fortune, sharp. Winchelsea and 
Rye form together a very curious small corner, 
and the measure, candidly undertaken, of what the 
unfinished book had done with them, brought me 
to a nearer view of them — perhaps even to a more 
jealous one; as well as to some consideration of 
what books in general, even when finished, may do 
with curious small corners. 

I daresay I speak of "Denis Duval" as "old" 
mainly to make an impression on readers whose age 
is less. I remember, after all, perfectly, the poetry 
of its original appearance — there was such a thrill, 
in those days, even after "Lovel the Widower" and 
"Philip," at any new Thackeray — in the cherished 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 289 

"Cornhill" of the early time, with a drawing of 
Frederick Walker to its every number and a possi- 
bility of its being like " Esmond" in its embroidered 
breast. If, moreover, it after a few months broke 
short off, that really gave it something as well as 
took something away. It might have been as true 
of works of art as of men and women, that if the 
gods loved them they died young. ''Denis Duval" 
was at any rate beautiful, and was beautiful again on 
reperusal at a later time. It is all beautiful once 
more to a final reading, only it is remarkably differ- 
ent : and this is precisely where my story Hes. The 
beauty is particularly the beauty of its being its 
author's — which is very much, with book after 
book, what we find ourselves coming to in general, 
I think, at fifty years. Our appreciation changes 
— how in the world, with experience always batter- 
ing away, should n't it ? — but our feehng, more 
happily, does n't. There are books, of course, that 
criticism, when we are fit for it, only consecrates, and 
then, with association fiddling for the dance, we are 
in possession of a Hterary pleasure that is the high- 
est of raptures. But in many a case we drag along a 
fond indifference, an element of condonation, which 
is by no means of necessity without its strain of 
esteem, but which, obviously, is not founded on one 
of our deeper satisfactions. Each can but speak, at 
all events, on such a matter, for himself. It is a mat- 



290 ENGLISH HOURS 

ter also, doubtless, that belongs to the age of the 
loss — so far as they quite depart — of illusions at 
large. The reason for liking a particular book be- 
comes thus a better, or at least a more generous, one 
than the particular book seems in a position itself 
at last to supply. Woe to the mere official critic, the 
critic who has never felt the man. You go on Hking 
"The Antiquary" because it is Scott. You go on 
liking "David Copperfield" — I don't say you go 
on reading it, which is a very different matter — 
because it is Dickens. So you go on liking "Denis 
Duval" because it is Thackeray — which, in this 
last case, is the logic of the charm I alluded to. 

The recital here, as every one remembers, is 
autobiographic; the old battered, but considerably 
enriched, world-worn, but finely sharpened Denis 
looks back upon a troubled life from the winter fire- 
side and places you, in his talkative and contagious 
way, — he is a practised literary artist, — in posses- 
sion of the story. We see him in a placid port after 
many voyages, and have that amount of evidence 
— the most, after all, that the most artless reader 
needs — as to the "happy" side of the business. 
The evidence indeed is, for curiosity, almost excess- 
ive, or at least premature; as he again and again 
puts it before us that the companion of his later 
time, the admirable wife seated there beside him, 
is nobody else at all, any hopes of a more tangled 






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RYE, FROM WINCHEL5EA GATE 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 291 

skein notwithstanding, than the object of his infant 
passion, the Httle French orphan, sHghtly younger 
than himself, who is brought so promptly on the 
scene. The way in which this affects us as under- 
mining the ''love-interest" bears remarkably on 
the specific question of the subject of the book as 
the author would have expressed this subject to his 
own mind. We get, to the moment the work drops, 
not a ghmpse of his central idea; nothing, if such 
had been his intention, was in fact ever more tri- 
umphantly concealed. The darkness therefore is 
intensified by our seeming to gather that, like the 
love-interest, at all events, the "female interest" 
was not to have been largely invoked. The narrator 
is in general, from the first, full of friendly hints, 
in Thackeray's way, of what is to come; but the 
chapters completed deal only with his childish years, 
his wondrous boy-life at Winchelsea and Rye, the 
public and private conditions of which — practically, 
in the last century, the same for the two places — 
form the background for this exposition. The south- 
eastern counties, comparatively at hand, were en- 
riched at that period by a considerable French im- 
migration, the accession of Huguenot fugitives too 
firm in their faith to have bent their necks to the 
dire rigours with which the revocation of the Edict 
of Nantes was followed up. This corner of Sussex 
received — as it had received in previous centuries 



292 ENGLISH HOURS 

— its forlorn contingent; to the interesting origin 
of which many Sussex family names — losing, as it 
were, their drawing but not their colour — still suffi- 
ciently testify. Portions of the stranger race suffered, 
struggled, sank; other portions resisted, took root 
and put forth branches, and Thackeray, clearly, 
had found his rough material in some sketchy vision 
of one of these obscure cases of troubled adjustment, 
which must often have been, for difficulty and com- 
plexity, of the stuff of dramas. Such a case, for the 
informed fancy, might indeed overflow with possi- 
bilities of character, character reinforced, in especial, 
by the impression, gathered and matured on the 
spot, of the two small ghosts of the Cinque Ports 
family, the pair of blighted hill-towns that were once 
sea-towns and that now draw out their days in the 
dim after-sense of a mere indulged and encouraged 
picturesqueness. "Denis Duval" could only, it 
would seem, have been conceived as a " picturesque " 
affair; but that may serve exactly as a reason for the 
attempt to refigure it. 

Little hilltop communities sensibly even yet, with 
the memory of their tight walls and stiff gates not 
wholly extinct, Rye and Winchelsea hold fast to the 
faint identity which remains their least fragile sup- 
port, their estate as "Antient Towns" involved 
(with the distincter Five and raising the number to 
seven), in that nominal, though still occasionally 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 293 

pompous Wardenship, the image — for our time — 
of the most famous assignment of which is preserved 
in Longfellow's fine verses on the death of the Duke 
of WeUington. The sea, in previous times half 
friend, half foe, began long since to fight, in each 
character, shy of them, and now, in wrinkled wist- 
fulness, they look across at the straight blue band, 
two miles or so away, that tells of the services they 
rendered, the illusions they cherished, — illusions 
in the case of poor Winchelsea especially absurd, — 
and the extreme inconvenience they repeatedly 
suffered. They were again and again harried and 
hacked by the French, and might have had, it would 
seem, small appetite for the company, however re- 
duced and disarmed, of these immemorial neigh- 
bours. The retreating waters, however, had even 
two centuries ago already placed such dangers on a 
very different footing, and the recovery and evoca- 
tion of some of the old processes of actual absorption 
may well have presented themselves to Thackeray 
as a problem of the sort that tempts the lover of hu- 
man histories. Happy and enviable always the first 
trepidation of the artist who hghts on a setting that 
"meets" his subject or on a subject that meets his 
setting. The editorial notes to "Denis Duval" 
yield unfortunately no indication of whether Win- 
chelsea put into his head the idea of this study, or of 
whether he carried it about till he happened judi- 



294 ENGLISH HOURS 

ciously to drop it there. Appearances point, in truth, 
to a connection of the latter kind, for the fragment 
itself contains no positive evidence that Thackeray 
ever, with the mere eye of sense, beheld the place; 
which is precisely one of the ambiguities that chal- 
lenge the critic and an item in the unexpectedness 
that I spoke of at the beginning of these remarks. 
What — in the light, at least, of later fashions — 
the place has to offer the actual observer is the effect 
of an object seen, a thing of aspect and suggestion, 
situation and colour; but what had it to offer Thack- 
eray — or the taste of forty years ago — that he so 
oddly forbore to give us a tangled clew to ? The im- 
pression of to-day's reader is that the chapters we 
possess might really have been written without the 
author's having stood on the spot; and that is just 
why they have, as I began by saying, so much less 
to contribute to our personal vision than this in- 
fluence, for its part, has to suggest in respect to the 
book itself. 

Evidently, none the less, the setting, little as it 
has got itself ''rendered," did somehow come into 
the painter's ken; we know this, moreover, inde- 
pendently, and we make out that he had his inner 
mysteries and his reasons. The little house of Duval, 
faring forth from the stress of the Alsatian father- 
land, seeks safety and finds business in the shrunken 
city, scarce at last more than a hamlet, of Edward 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 295 

the First's defeated design, where, in three genera- 
tions, well on into the century, it grinds and sleeps, 
smuggles and spends, according to the fashions of 
the place and time. These communities appear to 
have had, in their long dechne, httle industry but 
their clandestine traffic with other coasts, in the 
course of which they quite mastered the art of going, 
as we say, "one better" than the officers of the 
revenue. It is to this hour a part of the small ro- 
mance of Rye that you may fondly fancy such scant 
opulence as rears its head to have had its roots in 
the malpractice of forefathers not too rude for much 
cunning — in nightly plots and snares and flurries, 
a hurrying, shuffling, hiding, that might at any time 
have put a noose about most necks. Some of those 
of the small gentry who were not smugglers were 
recorded highwaymen, flourishing about in masks 
and with pistols; and indeed in the general scene, 
as rendered by the supposed chronicler, these appear 
the principal features. The only others are those of 
his personal and private situation, which in fact, 
however, strikes me as best expressed in the fact that 
the extremely talkative, discursive, ejaculatory, and 
morahsing Denis was possessed in perfection of his. 
master's maturest style. He writes, almost to the 
hfe, the language of the "Roundabout Papers;" 
so that if the third person had been exchanged, 
throughout, for his first, and his occasional present 



296 ENGLISH HOURS 

tense been superseded by the past, the rest of the 
text would have needed Httle rearrangement. This 
imperfect unity was more or less inevitable — the 
difficulty of projecting yourself as somebody else is 
never so great as when you retain the form of being 
yourself; but another of the many reflections sug- 
gested by reperusal is as to whether the speaker is 
not guilty of a slight abuse. Of course it may be said 
that what really has happened was that Thackeray 
had, on his side, anticipated his hero in the use of 
his hero's natural idiom. It may thus have been 
less that Denis had come to write highly "evolved" 
nineteenth-century English than that his creator 
had arrived, in the "Roundabout Papers" and 
elsewhere, at writing excellent reconstructed eight- 
eenth. It would not, however, were the enquiry to 
be pushed, be only on the autobiographer's personal 
and grammatical, but on his moral and sentimen- 
tal accent, as it were, that criticism would probably 
most bear. His manner of thinking and feeling is^ 
quite as "Roundabout" as his manner of saying. 

A dozen wonderments rise here, and a dozen 
curiosities and speculations; as to which, in truth, I 
am painfully divided between the attraction of such 
appeals and a certain other aspect of my subject to 
which I shall attempt presently to do justice. The 
superior stroke, I remind myself — possibly not in 
vain — would be to deal handsomely with both 



^,^,.|ti. '^Si|;,^^^ 




iW3i 






~'V,#- 









RYE, FROM THE WINCHELSEA ROAD 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 297 

solicitations. The almost irresistible fascination, 
critically speaking, of the questions thus abruptly, 
after long years, thrust forth by the book, lies in 
their having reference to this very opposition of 
times and tastes. The thing is not forty years old, 
but it points already — and that is above all the 
amusement of it — to a general poetic that, both on 
its positive and its negative sides, we have left well 
behind. Can the author perhaps have had in mind, 
misguidedly, some idea of what his pubhc ''wanted " 
or did n't want ? The public is really, to a straight 
vision, I think, not a capacity for wanting, at all, 
but only an unlimited capacity for taking — taking 
that (whatever it is) which will, in effect, make it 
open its mouth. It goes to the expense of few pre- 
conceptions, and even on the question of opening its 
mouth has a consciousness hmited to the suspicion 
that in a given case this orifice has — or has not — 
gaped. We are therefore to imagine Thackeray as 
perfectly conscious that he himself, working by his 
own fine hght, constituted the public he had most 
to reckon with. On the other hand his time, in its 
degree, had helped to shape him, and a part of the 
consequence of this shaping, apparently, was his 
extraordinary avoidance of picture. This is the 
mystery that drives us to the hypothesis of his 
having tried to pay, in some uncanny quarter, some 
deluded deference. Was he under the fear that. 



298 ENGLISH HOURS 

even as he could do it, "description" would not, in 
the early sixties, be welcome? It is impossible to 
stand to-day in the high, loose, sunny, haunted 
square of Winchelsea without wondering what he 
could have been thinking of. There are ladies in 
view with easels, sun-bonnets and white umbrellas 
— often perceptibly, too, with nothing else that 
makes for successful representation; but I doubt 
if it were these apparitions that took the bloom from 
his vision, for they were much less frequent in those 
looser days, and moreover would have formed much 
more a reason for not touching the place at all than 
for taking it up indifferently. Of any impulse to 
make the reader see it with seeing eyes his page, at 
all events, gives no sign. We must presently look at 
it for ourselves, even at the cost, or with the con- 
sequence, of a certain loyal resentment. For Win- 
chelsea is strange, individual, charming. What 
could he — yes — have been thinking of? We are 
wound up for saying that he has given his subject 
away, until we suddenly remember that, to this 
hour, we have never really made out what his sub- 
ject was to have been. 

Never was a secret more impenetrably kept. Read 
over the fragment itself — which reaches, after all, 
to some two hundred and fifty pages; read over, 
at the end of the volume, the interesting editorial 
notes; address yourself, above all, in the charming 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 299 

series of introductions lately prepared by Mrs. Rich- 
mond Ritchie for a new and, so far as possible, 
biographical edition of her father's works, to the 
reminiscences briefly bearing on Denis, and you will 
remain in each case equally distant from a clew. 
It is the most puzzling thing in the world, but there 
is no clew. There are indications, in respect to the 
book, from Thackeray's hand, memoranda on 
matters of detail, and there is in especial a highly 
curious letter to his pubhsher; yet the clew that his 
own mind must have held never shows the tip of its 
tail. The letter to his pubhsher, in which, according 
to the editor of the fragment, he '' sketches his plot 
for the information of" that gentleman, reads like 
a mystification by which the gentleman was to be 
temporarily kept quiet. With an air of telhng him 
a good deal, Thackeray really tells him nothing — 
nothing, I mean, by which he himself would have 
been committed to (any more than deterred from) 
any idea kept up his sleeve. If he were holding this 
card back, to be played at his own time, he could 
not have proceeded in the least differently ; and one 
can construct to-day, with a free hand, one's picture 
of his private amusement at the success of his diplo- 
macy. All the while, what was the card ? The pro- 
duction of a novel finds perhaps its nearest analogy 
in the ride across country; the competent novelist 
— that is, the novelist with the real seat — presses 



300 ENGLISH HOURS 

his subject, in spite of hedges and ditches, as hard 
as the keen fox-hunter presses the game that has 
been started for his day with the hounds. The fox 
is the novehst's idea, and when he rides straight, 
he rides, regardless of danger, in whatever direction 
that animal takes. As we lay down " Denis Duval," 
however, we feel not only that we are off the scent, 
but that we never really have been, with the author, 
on it. The fox has got quite away. For it carries us 
no further, surely, to say — as may possibly be ob- 
jected — that the author's subject was to have been 
neither more nor less than the adventures of his 
hero; inasmuch as, turn the thing as we will, these 
"adventures" could at the best have constituted 
nothing more than its form. It is an affront to the 
memory of a great writer to pretend that they were 
to have been arbitrary and unselected, that there 
was nothing in his mind to determine them. The 
book was, obviously, to have been, as boys say, 
*' about" them. But what were they to have been 
about ? Thackeray carried the mystery to his grave. 



II 

If I spoke just now of Winchelsea as haunted, let 
this somewhat overworked word stand as an inef- 
fectual tribute to the small, sad, civic history that 
the place appeals to us to reconstruct as we gaze 



^^-m«^^«^5.._. f^ ^^ 




RYE, FROM THE MARSHES 



WINCH ELSEA AND RYE 301 

vaguely about. I have a little ancient and most 
decorative map of Sussex — testifying remarkably 
to the changes of relation between sea and land in 
this corner of the coast — in which " Old Winchelsey 
Drowned" figures as the melancholy indication 
of a small circular spot quite out at sea. If new 
Winchelsea is old, the earlier town is to-day but the 
dim ghost of a tradition, with its very site — distant 
several miles from that of its successor — rendered 
uncertain by the endless mutation of the shore. 
After suffering, all through the thirteenth century, 
much stress of wind and weather, it was practically 
destroyed in 1287 by a great storm which cast up 
masses of beach, altered the course of a river, and 
roughly handled the face of many things. The re- 
construction of the town in another place was there- 
upon decreed by a great English king, and we need 
but a little fuller chronicle to help us to assist at one 
of those migrations of a whole city of which antiquity 
so often gives us the picture. The survivors of 
Winchelsea were colonised, and colonised in much 
state. The "new" community, whose hfe was also 
to be so brief, sits on the pleasant table of a great 
cliff-Hke hill which, in the days of the Plantagenets, 
was an admirable promontory washed by the waves. 
The sea surrounded its base, came up past it to the 
east and north in a long inlet, and stretched away, 
across the level where the sheep now graze, to stout 



302 ENGLISH HOURS 

little neighbouring Rye, perched — in doubtless not 
quite equal pride — on an eminence more humble, 
but which must have counted then even for more 
than to-day in the pretty figure made, as you stand 
off, by the small, compact, pyramidal port. The 
''Antient Towns" looked at each other then across 
the water, which made almost an island of the rock 
of huddled, church-crowned Rye — which had too 
much to say to them ahke, on evil days, at their best 
time, but which was too soon to begin to have too 
little. If the early Winchelsea was to suffer by 
''drowning," its successor was to bear the stroke of 
remaining high and dry. The haven on the hill-top 
— a bold and extraordinary conception — had hardly 
had time to get, as we should now say, ''started," 
before it began to see its days numbered. The sea 
and the shore were never at peace together, and it 
was, most remarkably, not the sea that got the best 
of it. Winchelsea had only time to dream a great 
dream — the dream of a scant pair of centuries — 
before its hopes were turned to bitterness and its 
boasts to lamentation. It had literally, during its 
short career, put in a claim to rivalship with the 
port of London. The irony of fate now sits in its 
empty lap; but the port of London has never sug- 
gested even a frustrate "Denis Duval." 

While Winchelsea dreamed, at any rate, she 
worked, and the noble fragment of her great church. 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 303 

rising solid from the abortive symmetry of her great 
square, helps us to put our hand on her deep good 
faith. She built at least as she believed — she planned 
as she fondly imagined. The huge ivy-covered choir 
and transepts of St. Thomas of Canterbury — to 
whom the structure v^as addressed — represent to 
us a great intention. They are not so mighty, but 
they are almost as brave, as the w^ondrous fragment 
of Beauvais. Walled and closed on their unfinished 
side, they form at present all the church, and, vv^ith 
its grand lines of arch and v^indov^, its beautiful 
gothic tombs and general hugeness and height, the 
church — mercifully exempt as yet from restoration 

— is wonderful for the place. You may at this hour 

— if you are given to such emotions — feel a mild 
thrill, not be unaware even of the approach of tears, 
as you measure the scale on which the building had 
been planned and the ground that the nave and 
aisles would have covered. You murmur, in the 
summer twilight, a soft "Bravo!" across the ages 

— to the ears of heaven knows what poor nameless 
ghosts. The square — apparently one of many — 
was to have been worthy of New York or of Turin ; 
for the queerest, quaintest, most touching thing of 
all is that the reinstated city was to have been laid 
out on the most approved modern hnes. Nothing is 
more interesting — to the mooning, sketching 
spectator — than this evidence that the great Ed- 



304 ENGLISH HOURS 

ward had anticipated us all in the convenient chess- 
board pattern. It is true — attention has been 
called to the fact — that Pompeii had anticipated 
him; but I doubt if he knew much about Pompeii. 
His abstract avenues and cross-streets straggle 
away, through the summ.er twihght, into mere legend 
and mystery. In speaking awhile since of the gates 
of these shattered strongholds as "stiff," I also spoke 
of their walls as "tight;" but the scheme of Win- 
chelsea must have involved, after all, a certain 
looseness of cincture. The old vague girdle is lost 
to-day in the fields where the sheep browse, in the 
parkish acres where the great trees cluster. The 
Sussex oak is mighty — it was of the Sussex oak 
that, in the old time, the king's ships were built; 
it was, in particular, to her command of this material 
that Rye owed the burdensome honour of supplying 
vessels, on constant call, to the royal navy. Strange 
is this record, in Holloway's History of that town, 
and in presence of the small things of to-day; so 
perpetual, under stress, appears to have been the 
demand and so free the supply and the service. 

Rye continued indeed, under her old brown south 
chff, to build big boats till this industry was smitten 
by the adoption of iron. That was the last stroke; 
though even now you may see things as you stand on 
the edge of the cHff: best of all on the open, sunny 
terrace of a dear little old garden — a garden brown- 



WINCH ELSE A AND RYE 305 

walled, red- walled, rose-covered on its other sides, 
divided by the width of a quiet street of grass-grown 
cobbles from the house of its master, and possessed 
of a httle old glass-fronted, panelled pavilion which 
I hold to be the special spot in the world where 
Thackeray might most fitly have figured out his 
story. There is not much room in the pavilion, but 
there is room for the hard-pressed table and the 
tilted chair — there is room for a novelist and his 
friends. The panels have a queer paint and a ven- 
erable slant; the small chimney-place is at your 
back; the south window is perfect, the privacy 
bright and open. How can I tell what old — what 
young — visions of visions and memories of images 
come back to me under the influence of this quaint 
receptacle, into which, by kind permission, I oc- 
casionally peep, and still more under the charm of 
the air and the view that, as I just said, you may 
enjoy, close at hand, from the small terrace? How 
can I tell why I always keep remembering and losing 
there the particular passages of some far-away 
foohsh fiction, absorbed in extreme youth, which 
haunt me, yet escape me, hke the echo of an old 
premonition ? 'I seem to myself to have lain on the 
grass somewhere, as a boy, poring over an English 
novel of the period, presumably quite bad, — for 
they were pretty baa then too, — and losing mvself 
in the idea of just such another scene as this. But 



3o6 ENGLISH HOURS 

even could I rediscover the novel, I would n't go 
back to it. It could n't have been so good as this; 
for this — all concrete and doomed and minimised 
as it is — is the real thing. The other little gardens, 
other little odds and ends of crooked brown wall 
and supported terrace and glazed winter sun-trap, 
lean over the cliff that still, after centuries, keeps its 
rude drop ; they have beneath them the river, a tide 
that comes and goes, and the mile or more of grudg- 
ing desert level, beyond it, which now throws the 
sea to the near horizon, where, on summer days, 
with a depth of blue and a scattered gleam of sails, 
it looks forgiving and resigned. The little old ship- 
yards at the base of the rock are for the most part 
quite empty, with only vague piles of brown timber 
and the deposit of generations of chips ; yet a fishing- 
boat or two are still on the stocks — an "output" 
of three or four a year! — and the ring of the ham- 
mer on the wood, a sound, in such places, rare to 
the contemporary ear, comes up, through the sunny 
stillness, to your meditative perch. 

The tidal river, on the left, wanders away to Rye 
Harbour and its bar, where the black fishing-boats, 
half the time at lop-sided rest in the mud, make a 
cluster of slanting spears against the sky. When the 
river is full we are proud of its wide Hght and many 
curves; when it is empty we call it, for vague rea- 
sons, "rather Dutch;" and empty or full we sketch 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 307 

it in the fine weather as hard as ever we can. When 
I say "we" I mean they do — it is to speak with 
hospitahty. They mostly wear, as I have hinted, 
large sunbonnets, and they crouch on low camp- 
stools ; they put in, as they would say, a bit of white, 
in places often the least hkely. Rye is in truth a 
rudimentary drawing-lesson, and you quite embrace 
the question when you have fairly seized the formula. 
Nothing so "quaint" was ever so easy — nothing 
so easy was ever so quaint. Much more to be loved 
than feared, she has not, alas, a scrap of " style," and 
she may be effectively rendered without the obliga- 
tion of subtlety. At favoured seasons there appear 
within her precinct sundry slouch-hatted gentlemen 
who study her humble charms through a small tele- 
scope formed by their curved fingers and thumb, 
and who are not unliable to define themselves as 
French artists leading a train of English and Ameri- 
can lady pupils. They distribute their disciples 
over the place, at selected points, where the master, 
going his round from hour to hour, reminds you of 
nothing so much as a busy chej with many sauce- 
pans on the stove and periodically lifting their covers 
for a sniff and a stir. There are ancient doorsteps 
that are fairly haunted, for their convenience of 
view, by the " class," and where the fond proprietor, 
going and coming, has to pick his way among para- 
phernalia or to take flying leaps over genius and 



3o8 ENGLISH HOURS 

industry. If Winchelsea is, as I gather, less beset, 
it is simply that Winchelsea enjoys the immunity 
of her greater distinction. She is full of that and 
must be even more difficult than she at first appears. 
But I forsook her and her distinction, just now, and 
I must return to them; though the right moment 
would quite have been as we stood, at Rye, on the 
terrace of the little old south-garden, to which she 
presents herself, beyond two or three miles of flat 
Dutch-looking interval, from the extreme right, her 
few red roofs almost lost on her wooded hill and 
her general presence masking, for this view, the 
headland of Hastings, ten miles, by the coast, west- 
ward. 

It was about her spacious solitude that we had 
already begun to stroll; for the purpose, however, 
mainly, of measuring the stretch, south and north, 
to the two more crumbled of her three old gates. 
They are very far gone, each but the ruin of a ruin; 
but it is their actual countrified state that speaks of 
the circuit — one hundred and fifty acres — they 
were supposed to defend. Under one of them you 
may pass, much round about, by high-seated villages 
and in constant sight of the sea, toward Hastings; 
from the other, slightly the less dilapidated, you may 
gather, if much so minded, the suggestion of some 
illustration or tail-piece in a volume of Itahan travel. 
The steep white road plunges crookedly down to 




THE SANDGATE, RYE 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 309 

where the poor arches that once were massive strad- 
dle across it, while a spreading chestnut, beside 
them, plays exactly the part desired — prepares 
you, that is, for the crack of the whip of the vetturino 
trudging up beside his travelling-carriage. With a 
bare-legged urchin and a browsing goat the whole 
thing would be there. But we turn, at that point, 
to mount again and cross the idle square and come 
back to the east gate, which is the aspect of Win- 
chelsea that presents itself most — and in fact quite 
admirably — as the front. Yet by what is it that, 
at the end of summer afternoons, my sense of an 
obliterated history is fed? There is httle but the 
church really to testify, for the extraordinary groined 
vaults and crypts that are part of the actual pride of 
the place — treasure-houses of old merchants, foun- 
dations of upper solidities that now are dust — count 
for nothing, naturally, in the immediate effect. The 
early houses passed away long ago, and the present 
ones speak, in broken accents and scant and shabby 
signs, but of the last hundred, the last couple of 
hundred, years. Everything that ever happened is 
gone, and, for that matter, nothing very eminent, 
only a dim mediocrity of life, ever did happen. Rye 
has Fletcher the dramatist, the Fletcher of Beau- 
mont, whom it brought to birth; but Winchelsea 
has only the last preachment, under a tree still shown, 
of John Wesley. The third Edward and the Black 



3IO ENGLISH HOURS 

Prince, in 1350, overcame the Spaniards in a stout 
sea-fight within sight of the walls; but I am bound 
to confess that I do not at all focus that performance, 
am unable, in the changed conditions, to "place" 
anything so pompous. In the same way I fail to 
"visualise," thank goodness, either of the several 
French inroads that left their mark of massacre 
and ruin. What I do see, on the other hand, very 
comfortably, is the little undistinguished picture 
of a nearer antiquity, the antiquity for a glimpse of 
which I reopened "Denis Duval." Where, please, 
was the barber's shop of the family of that hero, 
and where the apartments, where the preferred re- 
sorts, the particular scenes of occupation and diver- 
sion, of the dark Chevaher de la Motte ? Where did 
this subtle son of another civiHsation, with whom 
Madame de Saverne had eloped from France, en 
plein ancien regime, without the occurrence between 
them of the least impropriety, spend his time for so 
long a period; where had he his little habits and his 
numerous indispensable conveniences? What was 
the general geography, to express it synthetically, 
of the state of hfe of the orphaned Clarisse, quartered 
with a family of which one of the sons, furiously 
desirous of the girl, was, at his lost moments, a 
highwayman stopping coaches in the dead of night ? 
Over nothing in the whole fragment does such 
vagueness hover as over the domestic situation, in 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 311 

her tender years, of the future Madame Denis. Yet 
these are just the things I should have hked to 
know — the things, above all, I should have liked 
most to tell. Into a vision of them, at least, we can 
work ourselves; it is exactly the sort of vision into 
which Rye and Winchelsea, and all the land about, 
full of lurking hints and modest memories, most 
throws us back. I should, in truth, have hked to 
lock up our novelist in our little pavilion of inspira- 
tion, the gazebo at Rye, not letting him out till he 
should quite have satisfied us. 

Close beside the east gate, so close that one of its 
battered towers leans heavily on the little garden, 
is a wonderfully perched cottage, of which the mis- 
tress is a very celebrated lady who resorts to the 
place in the intervals of an exacting profession — 
the scene of her renown, I may go so far as to men- 
tion, is the theatre — for refreshment and rest. The 
small grounds of this refuge, supported by the old 
town-wall and the steep plunge of the great hill, 
have a rare position and view. The narrow garden 
stretches away in the manner of a terrace to which 
the top of the wall forms a low parapet ; and here it 
is that, when the summer days are long, the sweet 
old soul of all the land seems most to hang in the air. 
It is almost a question indeed w^hether this fine 
Winchelsea front, all silver-grey and ivy-green, is 
not even better when making a picture itself from 



312 ENGLISH HOURS 

below than when giving you one, with much im- 
mensity, from its brow. This picture is always your 
great effect, artfully prepared by an absence of pre- 
diction, when you take a friend over from Rye ; and 
it would appear quite to settle the small discussion 
— that may be said to come up among us so often — 
of which is the happier abode. The great thing 
is that if you live at Rye you have Winchelsea to 
show"; whereas if you live at Winchelsea you have 
nothing but Rye. This latter privilege I should be 
sorry to cry down; but nothing can alter the fact 
that, to begin with, the pedestal of Winchelsea has 
twice the height, by a rough measure, of that of its 
neighbour; and we all know the value of an inch at 
the end of a nose. Almost directly under the Win- 
chelsea hill, crossing the little bridge of the Brede, 
you pass beyond a screen of trees and take in, at the 
top of the ascent, the two round towers and arch, 
ivied and mutilated, but still erect, of the old main 
gate. The road either way is long and abrupt, so 
that people kind to their beasts alight at the foot, 
and cyclists careful of their necks alight at the head. 
The brooding spectator, moreover, who forms a 
class by himself, pauses, infallibly, as he goes, to 
admire the way the great trees cluster and compose 
on the high slope, always striking, for him, as day 
gathers in and the whole thing melts together, a 
classic, academic note, the note of Turner and 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 313 

Claude. From the garden of the distinguished cot- 
tage, at any rate, it is a large, melancholy view — a 
view that an occasional perverse person whom it 
fails to touch finds easy, I admit, to speak of as 
dreary; so that those who love it and are well ad- 
vised will ever, at the outset, carry the war into the 
enemy's country by announcing it, with glee, as sad. 
Just this it must be that nourishes the sense of 
obliterated history as to which I a moment ago 
wondered. The air is like that of a room through 
which something has been carried that you are 
aware of without having seen it. There is a vast 
deal of level in the prospect, but, though much de- 
pends on the day and still more on the hour, it is, 
at the worst, all too delicate to be ugly. The best 
hour is that at which the compact little pyramid of 
Rye, crowned with its big but stunted church and 
quite covered by the westering sun, gives out the 
full measure of its old browns that turn to red and 
its old reds that turn to purple. These tones of even- 
ing are now pretty much all that Rye has left to 
give, but there are truly, sometimes, conditions of 
atmosphere in which I have seen the effect as fan- 
tastic. I sigh when I think, however, what it might 
have been if, perfectly placed as it is, the church 
tower — which in its more perverse moods only 
resembles a big central button, a knob on a pin- 
cushion — had had the grace of a few more feet of 



314 ENGLISH HOURS 

stature. But that way depression lies, and the hu- 
miliation of those moments at which the brooding 
spectator says to himself that both tower and hill 
would have been higher if the place had only been 
French or Italian. Its whole pleasant little pathos, 
in point of fact, is just that it is homely English. 
And even with this, after all, the imagination can 
play. The wide, ambiguous flat that stretches east- 
ward from Winchelsea hill, and on the monotone 
of whose bosom, seen at sunset from a friendly 
eminence that stands nearer. Rye takes the form of 
a huge floating boat, its water-Hne sharp and its 
bulk defined from stem to stern — this dim expanse 
is the great Romney Marsh, no longer a marsh 
to-day, but, at the end of long years, drained and 
ordered, a wide pastoral of grazing, with "new" 
Romney town, a Port no more, — not the least of the 
shrunken Five, — mellowed to mere russet at the 
far end, and other obscure charms, revealed best 
to the slow cycHst, scattered over its breast: httle 
old "bits" that are not to be described, yet are 
known, with a small thrill, when seen; little lonely 
farms, red and grey; little mouse- coloured churches; 
little villages that seem made only for long shadows 
and summer afternoons. Brookland, Old Romney, 
Ivychurch, Dymchurch, Lydd — they have posi- 
tively the prettiest names. But the point to be made 
is that, comparing small things with great, — which 



WINCHELSEA AND RYE 31S 

may always be done when the small things are 
^,^iable, - if Rye and its rock and its church are a 
miniature Mont-Saint-Michel, so, when the summer 
deepens, the shadows fall, and the mounted shep- 
herds and their dogs pass before you in the grassy 
desert, you find in the mild English "marsh" a 
recall of the Roman Campagna. 



I I 4: 



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.m 



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/'t' 




OLD SUFFOLK 



I AM not sure that before entering the county of 
Suffolk in the early part of August, I had been 
conscious of any personal relation to it save my 
share in what we all inevitably feel for a province 
enshrining the birthplace of a Copperfield. The 
opening hues in David's history offered in this par- 
ticular an easy perch to my young imagination; and 
to recall them to-day, though with a memory long 
unrefreshed, is to wonder once more at the depth to 
which early impressions strike down. This one in 
especial indeed has been the privilege of those mil- 
lions of readers who owe to Dickens the glow of the 



3i8 ENGLISH HOURS 

prime response to the romantic, that first bite of tlie 
apple of knowledge which leaves a taste for ever on 
the tongue. The great initiators give such a colour to 
mere names that the things they represent have 
often, before contact, been a lively part of experi- 
ence. It is hard therefore for an undefended victim 
of this kind of emotion to measure, when contact 
arrives, the quantity of picture already stored up, to 
point to the nucleus of the gallery or trace the history 
of the acquaintance. It is true that for the divine 
plant of sensibihty in youth the watering need never 
have been lavish. It flowered, at all events, at the 
right moment, in a certain case, into the branching 
image of Blunderstone — which, by the way, I am 
sorry to see figure as ''Blunderston" in gazetteers 
of recent date and more than questionable tact. 
Dickens took his Rookery exactly where he found it, 
and simply fixed it for ever; he left the cradle of the 
Copperfields the benefit of its delightful name; or 
I should say better^ perhaps, left the delightful name 
and the obscure nook the benefit of an association 
ineffaceable: all of which makes me the more 
ashamed not as yet to have found the right afternoon 
— it would have in truth to be abnormally long — 
for a pious pilgrimage to the distracting little church 
where, on David's sleepy Sundays, one used to lose 
one's self with the sketchy Phiz. One of the reasons 
of this omission, so profane on a prior view, is doubt- 



OLD SUFFOLK 319 

less that everything, in England, in old-time corners, 
has the connecting touch and the quality of illustra- 
tion, and that, in a particularly golden August, with 
an impression in every bush, the immediate vision, 
v^herever one meets it, easily attaches and suffices. 
Another must have been, I confess, the somewhat 
depressed memory of a visit paid a few years since 
to the ancient home of the Peggottys, supposedly so 
"sympathetic," but with httle left, to-day, as the 
event then proved, of the glamour it had worn to the 
fancy. Great Yarmouth, it will be remembered, was 
a convenient drive from Blunderstone ; but Great 
Yarmouth, with its mile of cockneyfied sea- front and 
its overflow of nigger minstrelsy, now strikes the 
wrong note so continuously that I, for my part, 
became conscious, on the spot, of a chill to the spirit 
of research. 

This time, therefore, I have allowed that spirit its 
ease ; and I may perhaps intelHgibly make the point 
I desire if I contrive to express somehow that I have 
found myself, most of the month, none the less 
abundantly occupied in reading a fuller sense into 
the lingering sound given out, for a candid mind, by 
my superscription and watching whatever it may 
stand for gradually flush with a stronger infusion. 
It takes, in England, for that matter, no wonderful 
corner of the land to make the fiddle-string vibrate. 
The old usual rural things do this enough, and a part 



320 ENGLISH HOURS 

of the charm of one's exposure to them is that they 
ask one to rise to no heroics. What is the charm, 
after all, but just the abyss of the familiar? The 
peopled fancy, the haunted memory are themselves 
what pay the bill. The game can accordingly be 
played with delightful economy, a thrift involving 
the cost of httle more than a good bicycle. The 
bicycle indeed, since I fall back on that admission, 
may perhaps, without difficulty, be too good for the 
roads. Those of the more devious kind often engen- 
der hereabouts, like the Aristotelian tragedy, pity 
and terror; but almost equally with others they lead, 
on many a chance, to the ruddiest, greenest hamlets. 
What this comes to is saying that I have had, for 
many a day, the sweet sense of living, aesthetically, 
at really high pressure without, as it were, drawing 
on the great fund. By the great fund I mean the 
public show, the show for admission to which you 
are charged and overcharged, made to taste of the 
tree of possible disappointment. The beauty of old 
Suffolk in general, and above all of the desperate 
depth of it from which I write, is that these things 
whisk you straight out of conceivable relation to 
that last danger. 

I defy any one, at desolate, exquisite Dunwich, to 
be disappointed in anything. The minor key is 
struck here with a felicity that leaves no sigh to be 
breathed, no loss to be suffered; a month of the 



OLD SUFFOLK 321 

place is a real education to the patient, the inner 
vision. The explanation of this is, appreciably, that 
the conditions give you to deal with not, in the man- 
ner of some quiet countries, what is meagre and 
thin, but what has literally, in a large degree, ceased 
to be at all. Dunwich is not even the ghost of its 
dead self; almost all you can say of it is that it 
consists of the mere letters of its old name. The 
coast, up and down, for miles, has been, for more 
centuries than I presume to count, gnawed away 
by the sea. All the grossness of its positive life is now 
at the bottom of the German Ocean, which moves 1 
for ever, like a ruminating beast, an insatiable, inde- 
fatigable lip. Few things are so melancholy — and 
so redeemed from mere ugliness by sadness — as this 
long, artificial straightness that the monster has 
impartially maintained. If at low tide you walk on 
the shore, the chffs, of httle height, show you a 
defence picked as bare as a bone; and you can say 
nothing kinder of the general humility and general 
sweetness of the land than that this sawlike action 
gives it, for the fancy, an interest, a sort of mystery, 
that more than makes up for what it may have sur- 
rendered. It stretched, within historic times, out 
into towns and promontories for which there is now 
no more to show than the empty eye-holes of a skull; 
and half the effect of the whole thing, half the secret 
of the impression, and what I may really call, 1 



322 ENGLISH HOURS 

think, the source of the distinction, is this very 
visibihty of the mutilation. Such at any rate is the 
case for a mind that can properly brood. There is 
a presence in what is missing — there is history in 
there being so little. It is so little, to-day, that every 
item of the handful counts. 

The biggest items are of course the two ruins, the 
great church and its tall tower, now quite on the 
verge of the cliff, and the crumbled, ivied wall of the 
immense cincture of the Priory. These things have 
parted with almost every grace, but they still keep 
up the work that they have been engaged in for cen- 
turies and that cannot better be described than as 
the adding of mystery to mystery. This accumula- 
tion, at present prodigious, is, to the brooding mind, 
unconscious as the shrunken little Dunwich of to-day 
may be of it, the beginning and the end of the matter. 
I hasten to add that it is to the brooding mind only, 
and from it, that I speak. The mystery sounds for 
ever in the hard, straight tide, and hangs, through 
the long, still summer days and over the low, diked 
fields, in the soft, thick hght. We play with it as with 
the answerless question, the question of the spirit 
and attitude, never again to be recovered, of the 
little city submerged. For it was a city, the main 
port of Suffolk, as even its poor relics show; with a 
fleet of its own on the North Sea, and a big religious 
house on the hill. We wonder what were then the 



OLD SUFFOLK 323 

apparent conditions of security, and on what rough 
calculation a community could so build itself out to 
meet its fate. It keeps one easy company here to-day 
to think of the whole business as a magnificent mis- 
take. But Mr. Swinburne, in verses of an extraor- 
dinary poetic eloquence, quite brave enough for 
whatever there may have been, glances in the right 
direction much further than I can do. Read more- 
over, for other glances, the "Letters of Edward 
FitzGerald," Suffolk worthy and whimsical subject, 
who, living hard by at Woodbridge, haunted these 
regions during most of his life, and has left, in de- 
lightful pages, at the service of the emulous visitor, 
the echo of every odd, quaint air they could draw 
from his cracked, sweet instrument. He has paid his 
tribute, I seem to remember, to the particular deli- 
cate flower — the pale Dunwich rose — that blooms 
on the walls of the Priory. The emulous visitor, only 
yesterday, on the most vulgar of vehicles — which, 
however, he is quite aware he must choose between 
using and abusing — followed, in the mellow after- 
noon, one of these faint hints across the land and as 
far as the old, old town of Aldeburgh, the birthplace 
and the commemorated "Borough" of the poet 
Crabbe. 

FitzGerald, devoted to Crabbe, was apparently not 
less so to this small break in the wide, low, heathery 
bareness that brings the sweet Suffolk commons — 



324 ENGLISH HOURS 

rare purple and gold when I arrived — nearly to the 
edge of the sea. We don't, none the less, always 
gather the particular impression we bravely go forth 
to seek. We doubtless gather another indeed that 
will serve as well any such turn as here may wait for 
it ; so that if it was somehow not easy to work Fitz- 
Gerald into the small gentihty of the sea-front, the 
httle "marina," as of a fourth-rate watering-place, 
that has elbowed away, evidently in recent years, the 
old handful of character, one could at least, to make 
up for that, fall back either on the general sense of 
the happy trickery of genius or on the special beauty 
of the mixture, in the singer of Omar Khayyam, 
that, giving him such a place for a setting, could yet 
feed his fancy so full. Crabbe, at Aldeburgh, for that 
matter, is perhaps even more wonderful — in the 
light, I mean, of what is left of the place by one's 
conjuring away the little modern vulgar accumula- 
tion. What is left is just the stony beach and the big 
gales and the cluster of fishermen's huts and the 
small, wide, short street of decent, homely, shoppy 
houses. These are the private emotions of the his- 
toric sense — glimpses in which we recover for an 
hour, or rather perhaps, with an intensity, but for 
the glimmer of a minute, the conditions that, grimly 
enough, could engender masterpieces, or at all 
events classics. What a mere pinch of manners and 
customs in the midst of winds and waves ! Yet if it 



OLD SUFFOLK 325 

was a feature of these to return a member to Parlia- 
ment, what wonder that, up to the Reform Bill, dead 
Dunwich should have returned two? 

The glimpses I speak of are, in all directions, the 
constant company of the afternoon "spin." Begin- 
ning, modestly enough, at Dunwich itself, they end, 
for intensity, as far inland as you have time to go; 
far enough — this is the great point — to have 
shown you, in their quiet vividness of type, a placid 
series of the things into which you may most read 
the old story of what is softest in the English com- 
plexity. I scarce know what murmur has been for 
weeks in my ears if it be not that of the constant 
word that, as a recall of the story, may serve to be 
put under the vignette. And yet this word is in its 
last form nothing more eloquent than the mere 
admonition to be pleased. Well, so you are, even as 
I was yesterday at Wesselton with the characteristic 
*' value " that expressed itself, however shyly, in the 
dear old red inn at which I halted for the queer 
restorative — I thus discharge my debt to it — of a 
bottle of lemonade with a " dash." The dash was only 
of beer, but the refreshment was immense. So even 
was that of the sight of a dim, draped, sphinx-Hke 
figure that loomed, at the end of a polished passage, 
out of a little dusky back parlour which had a win- 
dowful of the choked light of a small green garden — 
s3 a figure proving to be an old woman desirous to 



326 ENGLISH HOURS 

dilate on all the years she had sat there with rheu- 
matism ''most cruel." So, inveterately — and in 
these cases without the after-taste — is that of the 
pretty httle park gates you pass to skirt the walls and 
hedges beyond which the great affair, the greatest 
of all, the deep, still home, sits in the midst of its 
acres and strikes you all the more for being, pre- 
cisely, so unrenowned. It is the charming repeated 
lesson that the amenity of the famous seats in this 
country is nothing to that of the lost and buried ones. 
This impression in particular may bring you round 
again harmoniously to Dunwich and above all per- 
haps to where the Priory, laid, as I may say, flat on 
its back, rests its large outline on what was once the 
high ground, with the inevitable "big" house, be- 
yond and a httle above, folded, for privacy, in a neat, 
impenetrable wood. Here as elsewhere the cluster 
offers without complication just the signs of the type. 
At the base of the hill are the dozen cottages to 
which the village has been reduced, and one of which 
contains, to my hearing, though by no means, alas, 
to his own, a very ancient man who will count for you 
on his fingers, till they fail, the grand acres that, in 
his day, he has seen go the way of the rest. He likes 
to figure that he ploughed of old where only the sea 
ploughs now. Dunwich, however, will still last his 
time ; and that of as many others as — to repeat my 
hint — may yet be drawn here (though not, I hope, 



OLD SUFFOLK 327 

on the instance of these prudent Hnes) to judge for 
themselves into how many meanings a few elements 
can compose. One never need be bored, after all, 
when " composition" really rules. It rules in the way 
the brown hamlet really disposes itself, and the grey 
square tower of the church, in just the right relation, 
peeps out of trees that remind me exactly of those 
which, in the frontispieces of Birket Foster, offered 
to my childish credulity the very essence of England. 
Let me put it directly for old Suffolk that this credu- 
hty finds itself here, at the end of time, more than 
ever justified. Let me put it perhaps also that the 
very essence of England has a way of presenting 
itself with completeness in almost any fortuitous 
combination of rural objects at all, so that, wherever 
you may be, you get, reduced and simplified, the 
whole of the scale. The big house and its woods are 
always at hand ; with a "party " always, in the inter- 
vals of shooting, to bring down to the rustic sports 
that keep up the tradition of the village green. The 
russet, low-browed inn, the "ale-house" of Shake- 
speare, the immemorial fountain of beer, looking 
over that expanse, swings, with an old-time story- 
telhng creak, the sign of the Marquis of Carabas. 
The pretty girls, within sight of it, aHght from the 
Marquis's wagonette; the young men with the one 
eye-glass and the new hat sit beside them on the 
benches supplied for their sole accommodation, and 



328 ENGLISH HOURS 

thanks to which the meditator on manners has, a 
httle, the image, gathered from faded fictions by 
female hands, of the company brought over, for the 
triumph of the heroine, to the hunt or the county 
ball. And it is always Hodge and Gaffer that, at 
bottom, font les jrais — always the mild children of 
the glebe on whom, in the last resort, the complex 
superstructure rests. 

The discovery, in the twilight of time, of the 
merits, as a building-site, of Hodge's broad bent 
back remains surely one of the most sagacious 
strokes of the race from which the squire and the 
parson were to be evolved. He is there in force — 
at the rustic sports — in force or in feebleness, with 
Mrs. Hodge and the Miss Hodges, who participate 
with a silent glee in the chase, over fields where 
their shadows are long, of a pig with a greased tail. 
He pulls his forelock in the tent in which, after the 
pig is caught, the rewards of valour are dispensed by 
the squire's lady, and if he be in favour for respect- 
ability and not behind with rent, he penetrates later 
to the lawn within the wood, where he is awaited by 
a band of music and a collation of beer, buns, and 
tobacco. 

I mention these things as some of the Hght notes, 
but the picture is never too empty for a stronger one 
not to sound. The strongest, at Dunwich, is indeed 
one that, without in the least falsifying the scale, 



OLD SUFFOLK 329 

counts immensely for filling in. The palm in the 
rustic sports is for the bluejackets; as, in England, of 
course, nothing is easier than for the village green to 
alternate with the element that Britannia still more 
admirably rules. I had often dreamed that the ideal 
refuge for a man of letters was a cottage so placed on 
the coast as to be circled, as it were, by the protecting 
arm of the Admiralty. I remember to have heard it 
said in the old country — in New York and Boston 
— that the best place to live in is next to an engine- 
house, and it is on this analogy that, at Dunwich, I 
have looked for ministering peace in near neighbour- 
hood to one of those stations of the coast-guard that, 
round all the edge of England, at short intervals, on 
rock and sand and heath, make, with shining white- 
wash and tar, clean as a great state is at least theo- 
retically clean, each its own little image of the reach 
of the empire. It is in each case an image that, for 
one reason and another, you respond to with a sort 
of thrill; and the thing becomes as concrete as you 
can wish on your discovering in the three or four 
individual members of the simple staff of the estab- 
hshment all sorts of educated decency and many 
sorts of beguilement to intercourse. Prime among 
the latter, in truth, is the great yarn-spinning gift. 
It differs from man to man, but here and there it 
glows like a cut ruby. May the last darkness close 
before I cease to care for sea-folk ! — though this, I 



33^ 



ENGLISH HOURS 



hasten to add, is not the private predilection at 
which, in these incoherent notes, I proposed most to 
glance. Let me have mentioned" it merely as a sign 
that the fault is all my ov^n if, this summer, the arm 
of the Admiralty has not, in the full measure of my 
theory, represented the protection under which the 
long hterary morning may know — abyss of delu- 
sion ! — nothing but itself. 

DuNwicH, August 31, 1879, 




INDEX 



INDEX 



Abergavenny, 247. 

" Adam Bede," locality of, 216, 217. 

Aldeburgh, birthplace of Crabbe, 323, 

324- 
Apsley House, 20, 21. 
Arnold, Matthew, 24; " The Sick King 

in Bokhara," quoted, 29. 
Avon River, go. 

Baillie, Joanna, 44. 

Banbury, 218. 

Becket, Thomas A', his assassination 

at Canterbury, 149, 150; his shrine, 

150, 151- 
Belgravia, 15, 16; in dog-days, 154. 
Blackheath, the Common, 168. 
Black Prince, the {see Edward Planta- 

genet). 
Blunderstone, 318, 319. 
Bonchurch, 253, 254. 
Brighton, 278 ; gaiety of, 279. 
Broughton Castle, 219, 220. 
Browning, Robert, 51-59. 
Buckingham Palace, 21, 23. 
Bury St. Edmunds, 266 ; ruined abbey 

at, 267. 

Cambridge University, famous chapel 
of King's College, 264, 265. 

Cambridgeshire, Newmarket Heath, 
265, 266 ; shooting-boxes in, 266 ; 
Bury St. Edmunds, 266, 267. 

Canterbury, 142; the cathedral, 147- 
152 ; King's School, 148, 149; where 
Becket was killed, 149, 150; tomb of 
the Black Prince, 150 ; Lady Chapel, 
151; the pilgrimage to, 151. 

Charing Cross, 7; railway station, 42. 

Chatsworth, 87. 

Chaucer, his story-telling cavalcade, 
151- 

Chelsea, 42, 43. 



Chester, ancient wall, 62-67 ; cathe- 
dral, 66, 72-76; the Rows, 67-72; 
Anglican service, 73, 74; Canon 
Kingsley, 73-75- 

Chichester, the cathedral, 257, 260 ; 
an old market cross, 259. 

Clapham, a classic community, 178, 
179. 

Climate, richness of London, 17. 

Compton Wyniates, 220. 

Coventry, charity foundations, 210, 
212,213. 

Crabbe, George, birthplace of, 323, 324. 

" Daniel Deronda," recalled in War- 
wickshire, 202, 203. 

" David Copperfield," 290 ; retrospect- 
ive pictures in, 65 ; sleeps under a 
cannon at Chatham, 145 ; his birth- 
place visited, 317, 318; home of the 
Peggottys, 319. 

" Denis Duval," locality of, 288-315. 

Devonshire, beauties of, 93, 94. 

Dickens, Charles, retrospective pic- 
tures in " David Copperfield," 65 ; 
his Gadshill house, 143 ; recalled by 
talkative shopkeeper, 144 ; back- 
ground of "Oliver Twist " identified, 
274 ; birthplace of David visited, 317, 
318. 

Dore, Gustave, his drawing suggested 
by Devon seacoast, 104. 

Dover, 142. 

Du Maurier, George, 19. 

Dunwich, a desolate seaport, 320-322 ; 
ruins of, 322, 323 ; FitzGerald's trib- 
ute to quaintness of, 323 ; the Priory, 
326; inroads of the sea, 326, 327; 
rural merry-making, 327, 328. 

Edward Plantagenet, his tomb, 150 ; 
' ' Fleur-de-Lis" inn named in honour 



334 



INDEX 



of, 151 ; in the sea-fight off Winchel- 
sea, 310. 

Edward III, fights Spaniards off 
Winchelsea, 310, 311. 

Eliot, George, characters in " Daniel 
Deronda " suggested, 202, 203 ; lo- 
cality of " Adam Bede " and " Mid- 
dlemarch," 216, 217. 

England, its social discipline, 121, 122; 
universal church-going, 123-125; 
social usages, 125, 126; Easter exo- 
dus from London, 126; holiday 
spirit, 128, 129 ; Passion Week, 130- 
138; its people handsome, 136-138; 
its poverty depressing, 137 ; prole- 
tariat funeral, 138-141 ; no public 
entertainments, 157-159 ; prestige 
of, 170-173; the Egyptian occupa- 
tion, 172, 173 ; Derby Day, 175- 
188 ; the country the basis of society, 
176 ; a rural Sunday, 204, 205 ; types 
of English beauty, 206-208; rural 
scenery, 225-230 ; an English New 
Year, 269-275 ; watering-places in 
winter, 277-286. 

Epsom, Derby Day, 175-188. 

Exeter, the cathedral, 95-97. 

FitzGerald, Edward, tribute to Suffolk 
in his " Letters," 323 ; fond of 
Crabbe's birthplace, 323, 324. 

Fletcher, John, born at Rye, 309. 

Fog, London, 32, 33, 35, 131, 272. 

Foster, Birket, 327. 

Gladstone, William Ewart, speech on 
Egyptian occupation, 173. 

Glastonbury, 115, 116; ruined abbey 
of, 115-117- 

Green Park, 21-23. 

Greenwich, 43 ; dining at, 161-163 ; 
river excursion to, 164, 165 ; obser- 
vatory and park, 166. 

Grosvenor Place, 21. 

H addon Hall, 83-87. 

Hampstead, 43, 44. 

Hastings, 277 ; a little London, 278, 

279 ; inns and hotels, 280-284 ; a 

quiet retreat, 285, 286. 
" Henry Esmond," lines from, re- 



called, 5, 6; its Kensington setting, 
44. 
Hyde Park, 18 ; the Row, 19, 20 ; the 
Corner, 20-23, 46; in dog-days, 153. 

Ilfracombe, 97-101. 

" Ingoldsby Legends," an incident 

suggests, 5. 
Isle of Wight, detestable railways of, 

251 ; Ryde, 251 ; Ventnor, 251-253 ; 

Bonchurch, 253, 254 ; Shanklin, 254. 

Johnson, Samuel, first glimpse of 

Temple Bar, 79; birthplace, 78-83. 
Jones, Inigo, 167. 

Kenilworth, 198-201. 

Kensington Gardens, enchanting vista 
in, 18. 

Kingsley, Charles, discourse at Ches- 
ter, 74, 75. 

Lichfield, Dr. Johnson's birth-house, 
78 ; cathedral, 79-83 ; Haddon Hall, 
83-87 ; Chatsworth, 87. 

Liverpool, first impression of, 2, 3, 5 ; 
journey from, to London, 3-5. 

London, first impressions of, i, 4, 7, 8 ; 
St. Paul's, 4; Morley's Hotel, 4, 5 ; 
Temple Bar, 5; Ludgate Hill, 6; 
Strand, 6, 7 ; Charing Cross, 7 ; Pic- 
cadilly, 7, 8; its immensity an advan- 
tage, 8-13 ; creeds and coteries, 11 ; 
home of human race, 13 ; headquar- 
ters of English speech, 14; absence 
of style, 15; accident of style re- 
places intention, 16, 17; parks, 16- 
25 ; rural impressions, 18, 19; rustic 
walk from Netting Hill to Whitehall. 
18-25; Hyde Park, 19-22; Hyde 
Park Corner, 20 ; Grosvenor Place 
21 ; Apsley House, 20, 21 ; Green 
Park, 21-23 ; Buckingham Palace, 
21-23 ; levelling tendencies of Lon- 
don life, 25-28 ; beautiful women the 
great admiration, 28 ; liberal hospi- 
tality, 29 ; cultivation of the abrupt, 
29, 30 ; lights and shades, 3 1-36, 134 ; 
holidays, 34 ; railway stations, 37, 38; 
bookstalls, 38, 39 ; Thames River, 
40-43; Hampstead, 43, 44; Ken- 



INDEX 



335 



sington, 44; the Season, 45-51; 
Easter exodus, 126-128 ; Passion 
Week, 130-138; architectural us;li- 
ness, 133, 134 ; people of the slums, 
137; proletariat funeral, 138-141; 
the Tower, 142, 143 ; dog-days in, 
153-161 ; no "public fund" of 
amusement, 157-159; tramps, 160, 
161 ; convivial gatherings, 162-164. 

Ludgate Hill, 6. 

Ludlow, a charming old town, 240 ; 
provincial society at, 241-243. 

Lynton, 102-104. 

Mayfair, mind of, residences of, 15, 

16. 
" Middlemarch," locality of, 216, 217. 
" Mill on the Floss," retrospective 

pictures in, 65. 
Milton, John, 14. 
Monmouthshire, April in, 245, 246; 

the Skirrid, 246, 247 ; Abergavenny, 

247 ; a mediaeval church, 247-249 ; 

feudal manors, 249, 250. 

Newmarket Heath, 265, 266. 

Notting Hill, rustic walk to Whitehall, 
18-25. 

North Devon, 93-105 ; Exeter Cathe- 
dral, 95-97 ; beauties of Ilfracombe, 
97-101 ; Lynton, 102-104 ; Somerset, 
104, 105. 

Odger, George, radical agitator, his 

funeral, 138-141. 
" Oliver Twist," visit to a workhouse 

recalls, 274. 
Oxford, 41 ; at Commemoration, i8g- 

196 ; typifies union of science and 

sense, 261 ; Trinity College, 261- 

264. 

"Pall Mall Gazette," 176. 

Pall Mall, 32, 33. 

Piccadilly, 7, 8, 14, 21 ; funeral proces- 
sion on, 130, 140 ; the " White 
House," 177. 

Portsmouth, untidy and prosaic, 255, 
256 ; Nelson's " Victory," 256, 257. 

"Punch," 7. 



Queen Anne, statue of, 6. 

Rembrandt, pictures at Warwick Cas- 
tle, 90. 

Rochester, the Dickens country, 143- 
145; Watts's shelter, 144; the cathe- 
dral, 145-147- 

Ryde, 251. 

Rye, locality of " Denis Duval," 288- 
315; old shipyards, 304, 306; old 
gardens, 304-306; haunt of artists, 
306-308 ; birthplace of Fletcher, 309; 
landscape beauties, 313-315; Rom- 
ney Marsh, 314. 

St. Leonards, 278, 285. 

St. Paul's, cathedral of, 4. 

Salisbury, the cathedral, 117, 118; 
Stonehenge, 118, 119; Wilton 
House, 119, 120. 

Scott, Sir Walter, 290 ; locality of 
" Woodstock,"' 221, 222. 

Serpentine, bridge over, 17, 18. 

Shakespeare, William, 14; Warwick- 
shire his country, 88, -213, 214 ; his 
clowns, 201 ; Dame Quickly"s ale- 
house identified, 201 ; a garden set- 
ting for his comedies, 216. 

Shanklin, 254. 

" Sir Roger de Coverley," visualized 
at Porlock, 105. 

Skirrid, the, 246, 247. 

Somerset, 104, 105. 

Stokesay, 236; the castle, 237-240. 

Stonehenge, 118, 119. 

Strand, first walk in, 6 ; Exeter Hall, 
6,7. 

Stratford, 201 ; ideal home for a 
scholar, 214; a modern house in, 
215. 

Suffolk, locality of " David Copper- 
field," 317-319 ; Dunwich, 320-330 ; 
Aldeburgh, 323, 324; Wesselton, 
325. 326. 

Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 323. 

Temple Bar, 5 ; Dr. Johnson's first 
glimpse, 79. 

Thackeray, William Makepeace, local- 
ity of "Denis Duval," 288-315; 



336 



INDEX 



" Lovel the Widower," 288 ; Ad- 
ventures of Philip, 288; " Henry Es- 
mond," 289; "The Roundabout 
Papers," 295, 296. 
Thames River, 15 ; beauties of, 40-42 ; 
penny steamboats on, 142, 164, 165. 

Vandyck, Anthony, pictures at War- 
wick Castle, 90, 91 ; portraits at 
Wilton House, 119, 120. 

Ventnor, 251-253. 

Warwick, 89; the castle, 89-91 ; Lei- 
cester's Hospital, 210-212. 

Warwickshire, 87, 88; centre of Eng- 
lish life, 197 ; Kenilworth, 198-201 ; 
an old rectory, 201-207 '■> ^ Sunday 
in, 204, 205; pretty girls of, 207, 
208; conservatism of, 208-210; 
charitable institutions, 210 - 213 ; 
Stratford, 214, 215; Broughton Cas- 
tle, 219, 220; Compton Wyniates, 
220; Wroxton Abbey, 222, 223. 

Wells, the cathedral, 107-112 ; the 
close, 112; Bishop's Palace, 113, 



114; beautiful church of St. Cuth- 
bert, 114; Glastonbury Abbey, 115- 
117. 

Wesley, John, his last sermon at Win- 
chelsea, 309. 

Wesselton, 325, 326. 

Westminster, impressive towers of, 18, 
23- 

Westminster Abbey, Browning in, 51- 
59; Easter service at, 135. 

Winchelsea, locality of " Denis Du- 
val," 288-315; inroads of the sea, 
302 ; her great church, 302, 303 ; 
plans for expansion, 303, 304 ; Wes- 
ley's last sermon preached at, 309 ; 
sea-fight with Spaniards in o3ing, 
310; atmospheric and colour effects 
at, 312,313. 

"Woodstock," its locality, 221, 222. 

Woolwich, walk from Blackheath to, 
168; the common, 169; military 
college and arsenal, 169 ; feelings 
inspired by, 170-173. 

Wroxton Abbey, 222, 223. 

Wye River, 83. 



(Cbe Bitiersitie Tj^ves^ 

Electrotyped a7id pri7ited by H . O. Hoiighton (V Co. 
Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.